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Evanston Has Spent 76% of Snow Removal Budget So Far This Year

First came the snow. Then more snow. Then came extreme cold, followed by rain and finally, potholes.

After two major snowstorms dumped a total of 26.5 inches of snow on Evanston, the city has spent more than three-quarters of its snow removal budget so far this year, according to public works director Suzette Robinson.

The storm that began on Dec. 31 and lasted until Jan. 2 left 14 inches of snow, and was followed by a second storm that left 12.5 inches of snow between Jan. 4 and 5, Robinson told city council members. City crews mobilized with round-the-clock snow removal operations, but the sheer volume of snow quickly racked up costs in terms of overtime pay and extra equipment rental.

"The quantity of snow we received during both snow events was not predicted to be as much as it was," Robinson said during a presentation on Monday. "This represents the second snowiest week when we compare it to the National Weather Service record."

Evanston's 26.5 inches of snow between Dec. 31 and Jan. 5 is 6.5 inches greater than the total snowfall during the blizzard of February 2011, according to Robinson. It's also 3 inches more than the average annual snowfall for Evanston.

During fiscal year 2010-11, the city spent $927,943 on snow removal, according to Robinson. That included $539,320 alone for the blizzard. In 2013, Evanston spent $715,917 on snow removal.

Already, the city has spent $519,972 of its $685,000 budget for snow removal, including $411,261 for the first two storms of January, Robinson said. 

Beyond simply the costs of extra crews and equipment, the city had to deal with a complex parking situation that Robinson said was unique compared to other suburbs and the city of Chicago. While other suburbs have plenty of off-street parking and can enforce residential parking prohibitions overnight, she said that's tough to do in Evanston. Meanwhile, Evanston residents still expect the streets to be clear all the way to the curb (not just to the line of parked cars, as is typical in Chicago.)

For that reason, she said, the city did its snow removal in stages, asking residents to voluntarily abide by even/odd snow parking restrictions, and opening up city garages to residents for free parking. 

Asking residents to move their cars on a voluntary basis was particularly important after the second snowstorm, when temperatures plummeted to 15 below.

"It really was too dangerous to be out in the early parts of the sub-zero temperatures," Robinson said. "We elected and thought that those who couldn't get out and move on a voluntary basis, we would plow around them."

As soon as the snow was cleared, another problem emerged: potholes. Robinson said city crews completed emergency pothole repairs along primary routes over the weekend, but were still working on other routes.


Kenn Neely January 16, 2014 at 08:04 AM
What about the money they didn't spend he last year and the year before? This city really knows how to mismanage money... Then stick it to tax payers.
IgnorantA January 16, 2014 at 09:54 AM
Kenn, do you have any actual evidence of the PW department mismanaging the funds or are you blindly making unfounded accusations?
TAKH January 16, 2014 at 09:57 AM
Considering the amount of snow we got in such a short time and the sub zero temps I think the city snow crews did a great job! My only quibble would be the voluntary moving of the cars. Unless you are disabled or elderly you can go move your car. Some streets are hard enough to navigate when cars are parked all the way over and there is no snow. Add a pile of snow next to one and a parked car on the other side and some streets where almost impossible to go down safely.
Jordan S. Zoot January 16, 2014 at 10:03 AM
The cars that weren't moved should have been hit by the plows and too bad for the lazy owners. The City did a decent job with snow removal downtown and on major roads which is much more important than residential side streets for everyone to get around. If they overshot the budget, either cut something else or raise taxes. Perhaps they could prioritize and save future $$ by not plowing residential streets in part of Evanston which are not essential to the movement of traffic and let individual homeowners of block associations assume the responsibility. City funds ought be spent where the benefit of the effort reaches the greatest number of residents.
IgnorantA January 16, 2014 at 10:24 AM
The only time this become a real issue is if the city exceeds the budget. While we have had a strong start to winter, it could easily die down and we could be just fine. To me, this is not a story till it becomes an problem.
Jordan S. Zoot January 16, 2014 at 10:27 AM
Well...given the way that some in the City plan.....if they stop completely and don't do any more snow removal even if we have a couple more blizzards they can claim that they ended the year with a surplus.
Greg L January 16, 2014 at 10:36 AM
Maybe that's why they keep piling snow on the corner of Pratt and Simpson. I try to clear it for a elderly handicapped veterans and they keep blocking the corner with snow piles. Once, they even gave this poor guy a $75 ticket for not clearing the corner WHEN THEY PUT THE SNOW THERE! Your government, here to help.
Kenn Neely January 16, 2014 at 01:49 PM
@IgnorantA I Never said anything about PWs dept... I'm talking about the city and we know they never do any wrong! The PWs dept is awesome and I appreciate their work!
IgnorantA January 16, 2014 at 05:27 PM
Kenn, departmental budgets are just that, budgets for their respective department. An surplus or deficit in the PW department has nothing to do with any other department and rarely effect how the city as a whole manages their finances. Maybe I misread you initial statement, but you implied to me that because their might have been a surplus in previous years that somehow city management pi$$ed that money away which is simply not true.
Kenn Neely January 16, 2014 at 06:44 PM
@IgnorantA...Well then I am mis understanding the issue but then where do funds go each that are set aside for such things and are not spent? Anyway thanks for the dialog it is good to hash things out !
Ali January 16, 2014 at 08:12 PM
The bottom line is, Evanston has a huge problem with plowing the streets. They wait at least two days after the snow has stopped and even the main side streets will not be touched. This has been an on going issue for Evanston since I can remember. I was born & raised in Evanston. (40 + years) It's frustrating. I saw the salt trucks out there when it was TOO cold for salt. The salt did nothing. Poor planning is right. You go into our neighboring Skokie, Wilmette and Chicago and their streets are cleared. Once you get into Evanston? Be prepared. It's ridiculous. If money is an issue, then we need to take NW to court and have them start paying taxes on some of their newer construction. This has gone on for too long and it IS costing the Evanston residents a lot of $$$ in taxes. I don't think the parking police will get enough $$$ from expired meters to make up the deficit. Yes, I have a love hate relationship with this town!
Jordan S. Zoot January 16, 2014 at 09:22 PM
Northwestern is NEVER going to pay taxes and good luck getting them to agree to PILOT payments. The logical answer is concentrate on main streets and downtown....follow priorities.
Claudine Holloway January 16, 2014 at 10:10 PM
Hmmm. I must live in the 25%,area of Evanston that isn't being attended to. Infuriated by the lack of plow presence on the side streets I travel. Glad major roads were cleared - but it is pitiful that anyone driving around can tell when they have crossed into E-town from Rogers Park or Skokie. A sorry excuse that $ is running out-- our safety is too important. Can't wait for the snowfall this weekend to make it all more treacherous!
Mildred January 16, 2014 at 10:17 PM
Someone forgot to tell Streets and San the boundaries of the city. They seem to think it ends at Dempster
IgnorantA January 17, 2014 at 09:20 AM
@Kenn, Just because we had a few milder type winters does not necessarily mean that the PW department had a surplus in the budget. FOI request might be able to resolve that, however, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that potential that monies were used to maintain plowing equipment or maybe even it was transferred into some other department or fund, if either one of these scenarios were used, to me it show fiscal responsibility and not any misuse of funds. In my opinion, if the department purchased something useless like a blimp or the department head, all of a sudden, is driving a new city purchased vehicle then we might be able to claim misuse. Till then, more information is needed.
Jordan S. Zoot January 17, 2014 at 09:29 AM
If there were to be a budget surplus with PW they could use it to purchase a couple of drones to provide the ability to watch the crime riddled areas around ETHS and the high school from the air. Being able to spot and attack the local thugs from the air would be a great benefit to the community. :P
IgnorantA January 17, 2014 at 10:02 AM
@Jordan, as of now FAA prohibits the use of drones in this manor. Currently there are only 6 "test" sites available and none of them are in IL.
Jordan S. Zoot January 17, 2014 at 11:01 AM
@IgnorantA....hopefully they can make an exception and provide it for EPD to test armed militarized drones like Predators and Reapers that actually carry Hellfire missiles with explosive warheads. My guess is after the second or third hoodrat thug was vaporized for carrying an illegal firearm in an alley the message might start to stick. Finally, rather than using the Cook County Coroner let Streets and Sanitation pick up the left over debris to make it more cost efficient.

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