Plan would cut Chicago street sweeping crews

March 23, 2010 3:25:39 PM PDT
Chicago's streets may go a little longer between cleanings. A new plan would cut the number of street sweeping crews in an effort to save money.

Some aldermen are worried about losing the control they now have to make sure their wards stay clean.

Street sweeping season starts April 1. Until now, each of the 50 wards had its own street sweeper which would clean the streets on a schedule best suited to that ward. That will change with a new plan put forth by the Streets and Sanitation commissioner.

Instead of staying within each ward's unique boundary, street sweepers will cover 33 equally sized chunks of the city called "grids".

Alderman Willie Cochran, whose ward includes the Woodlawn, Englewood and Back-of-the-Yards communities, says he is concerned about the changes because some wards demand more service than others.

"One of the good things about having a truck in your ward at your access is that you can call the superintendant, and you can tell him these streets need to be taken care of," said Cochran.

Cochran says, in his ward, main streets are cleaned every day and side streets are swept once every four to five weeks. He is concerned the cleaning will be less frequent with the new system.

But Commissioner Thomas Byrne, who came up with the plan, says once it is in place residents should not see a difference in service, with neighborhoods getting cleaned six to seven times a year, which is the average. He says the plan is a more efficient, cost- cutting measure, since 17 less trucks will be on the street. Those drivers will be shifted to garbage trucks.

"I believe after the first time through, we should see some great improvements, and I believe in it or we wouldn't have introduced it yesterday," said Byrne.

Alderman Bob Fioretti of the 2nd Ward says he has long advocated the city should go to a grid system.

"If the grid system works properly and effectively, we will have clean streets throughout the city, and not just in parts. There will be some exceptions, for instance, when they have block parties and need extra help with cleanup," said Fioretti.

The goal of this plan is to streamline the Streets and Sanitation Department, and this is being done with no layoffs.