Warm winter saves city, suburbs money

March 13, 2012 4:55:51 AM PDT
The mild weather has been great for area snow-removal budgets, but it's also made for an off season for furnace companies.

This March, Chicagoans can draw on the sidewalks rather than shovel them.

"Last year it was really bad, a lot of us working people couldn't get to work because of the snow, we were stuck in the snow. This year, much better," said Alexandra Torres, Pilsen resident.

The warmer temperatures have translated to a lot of money saved.

People's Gas reports its customer are using 16 percent less natural gas to heat their homes this winter.

But while the warm weather has benefitted some, others have taken a financial hit.

At Deljo Heating and Cooling, calls about furnaces on the fritz are down so much they have had to lay some technicians off and cut the hours of others.

"The furnaces haven't been working hard enough," said Bill Clement, owner of Deljo Heating and Cooling. "In a normal winter on a 20 degree day, your furnace is running a lot more often. Now they're not running that hard so we're not seeing the aging equipment break down."

Across the city and suburbs, the salt is piling up and plows are sitting idle.

In Naperville that has freed up public works employees for tree trimming, storm sewer cleaning and road repair. It's also meant there's no need to ask the City Council for more money.

"We budget for an average winter and the last three winters have all been above average with more than 50 inches of snow, so this year, not only did we not have to go back and ask for more, we're turning back $350,000," said Christine Schwartzhoff, Naperville Public Works operations manager.

Joliet has cut its winter-weather related overtime by 25 percent. Tinley Park has been able to cut its overtime and salt-related expenses by $157,000.

The city of Chicago reports saving $8.8 million on overtime alone.

At the Illinois Department of Transportation the warm weather news is even better. It has spent $47 million less on snow and ice removal than it did in the same time period one year ago.

On the roads, fewer freeze and thaw cycles mean a smoother ride. The city of Chicago reports receiving 2,142 fewer reports of pothole problems.

The down side? The lack of a truly deep freeze means insects normally dormant in March are already active.