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Second round of snow hits Chicago area

City to cut back on snow removal
December 3, 2008 8:35:42 PM PST
As a second blast of winter swept through the area, the city plans to cut back snow removal service on side streets. On Wednesday night in the northwest suburbs, four vehicles were involved in a chain reaction crash. There were serious injuries reported with four people total injured in that crash.

Crews laid salt on Interstate 90 Wednesday night. The snow may have been lighter than predicted, but the workload for salt truck drivers is the same. For the second time this week, all 350 salt truck drivers in the state were called out.

The snow made for some slow going on the eastbound side of the Northwest Tollway during the early evening rush hour Wednesday. It also caused some delays at both airports - about 20 minutes worth of delays with 75 flights canceled at O'Hare. And at Midway, there were 30-minute delays. But no flights were canceled there.

Chicago snow command had nearly 200 trucks ready to tackle the main routes. The city called off its salting plan around 8:30 p.m. as snow downtown subsided.

And in Schaumburg, the village was also ready to clear the roads. They have stocked up on their salt for the winter. Although they paid three times as much for their salt supply. That's just because salt is a lot harder to come by this season. It started snowing in Schaumburg about 2 p.m. Wednesday.

"This year, the prices came in quite a bit higher due to shortages in the salt supply chain and we're paying an average of $122 a ton," said Steve Weinstock, village of Schaumburg.

Despite paying triple the price for seven tons of salt compared to last year, Schaumburg will maintain its routine of clearing the roads after each snowfall. Other municipalities that are scaling back their services and being more stingy with their salt.

"We provide the same level of salting surfaces and plowing that we do in any other year," said Francis Senyah, customer.

Senyah says he appreciates Schaumburg taking what amounts to an expensive stance. He said you can't put a price on safety. That's why he went to an Elgin Ace Hardware and bought 100 pounds of salt to keep his driveway clear.

"If I hold back on buying salt to get through my driveway or sidewalk, if I go to the hospital, I'm going to pay more," Senyah said.

Salt and other supplies were in demand as people were getting ready for the snow even though consumers across the board are spending less money in this economy.

"Whether the economy hurts or not, ice melt or shovels are something we all have to have," said Ben Rohling, Ace Hardware.

"It's going to be awful, if it's anything like last year. Even when they did bring a plow, they'd plow your car in, so you'd have to dig yourself out anyway," said Rick Wood, Lakeview.

To save money, the city will use a lighter spread of salt. And, to avoid paying overtime - most trucks will only plow side streets on weekdays, and only during regular working hours. Residents say they're concerend those cutbacks will mean more snow and ice around their cars.

"I think it's not the right thing to do because even getting out of my driveway, even getting to my car I'm about ready to fall on my butt, I think that's what it pretty much comes down to," said Jesse Lokken, Roscoe Village Resident.

During last year's brutal winter, the city spent $27 million on snow removal. This year, the goal is to spend $20 million. Alderman Tom Tunney is also concerned about injuries.

"You might potentially have some slips and falls, more potential automobile accidents from not proper salting or proper shoveling," said Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward.

On Monday, the city spent almost half a million dollars to tackle about 2 inches of snow. Trucks were pulled off side streets at 3 pm to avoid overtime.

"We've literally become victims of our own success. But as I explained, this high standard of snow removal comes at a very high cost," said Mike Picardi, streets & sanitation commissioner.


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