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updated: 7/13/2012 12:50 PM

DuPage still reeling from July 1 storm

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  • Milton Township Highway Department crews fill a huge trash bin on Woods Avenue at MacArthur Avenue.

      Milton Township Highway Department crews fill a huge trash bin on Woods Avenue at MacArthur Avenue.

  • A truck makes its way along National Street in unincorporated Milton Township between Carol Stream and Winfield, while dead wood is piled up lining the streets, waiting to be cleared.

       A truck makes its way along National Street in unincorporated Milton Township between Carol Stream and Winfield, while dead wood is piled up lining the streets, waiting to be cleared.
    photos by Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • A week after devastating winds blew through an unincorporated area of Milton Township between Carol Stream and Winfield, a downed tree still blocks the driveway of a house at Woods Avenue and National Street.

       A week after devastating winds blew through an unincorporated area of Milton Township between Carol Stream and Winfield, a downed tree still blocks the driveway of a house at Woods Avenue and National Street.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 
 

As the longest-serving city manager in DuPage County, Don Rose has seen his share of storm cleanups.

But the task of clearing debris from roads and public areas after the July 1 storm was on a scale unlike any other in his 31 years as Wheaton's city manager.

"I've never seen -- in all of the storms we've had -- such a large area with so many power lines down, poles down and whole trees down," Rose said. "There were also a lot of large tree limbs on the ground. The amount of tree damage is just unbelievable."

The powerful storm cut a swath of destruction through portions of DuPage and Cook counties. It also left tens of thousands of residents without power for days.

And the cleanup still could take weeks to complete.

"It's slow going, but we're digging our way through it," Winfield Village Manager Curt Barrett said of the town's effort to gather brush piled along residential streets. "I would not venture to give a date for when we're going to be done."

Between overtime expenses and the hiring of an outside tree service to assist its public works crews, Winfield is spending about $10,000 a day on its cleanup effort. "That's a big number for us," said Barrett, adding the town's general fund is about $4 million.

DuPage County officials are trying to determine if municipalities and townships can qualify to receive a reimbursement from the federal government. They're giving local entities until the end of the day today to submit the information needed to calculate a total cost estimate for the county.

However, the threshold DuPage must reach to petition the governor to request federal disaster relief funding is $17.3 million.

"We are doing our due diligence to count everything we can in an effort to reach this number," said David Gervino, emergency management coordinator for DuPage's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. "But from the preliminary reports and what we've seen, I am not sure that we will be able to hit it."

Milton Township Highway Commissioner Gary Muehlfelt puts it more bluntly.

"I don't think it's going to happen." Muehlfelt said of the prospect of getting federal money to offset the projected $75,000 cost of picking up the township's debris.

If federal assistance isn't available, several municipal and township officials said they will need to tap their cash reserves.

"There is extensive damage here, and I expect it will be very expensive," said West Chicago City Administrator Michael Guttman. While an official estimate hasn't yet been determined, he said the cost of the town's cleanup could surpass $200,000.

Roselle Village Administrator Jeff O'Dell said failing to get federal assistance would require the village to pay its cleanup bill from its operating budget. As a result, the village might have to cut back in other areas.

In Winfield Township, officials are planning to amend the budget to take money from road paving projects to cover the anticipated $60,000 cost of the township's cleanup. About 20 miles of the township's 48-mile system were affected. The brunt of the damage involved trees being knocked down, but several houses and garages also were damaged.

While communities could be stuck with a bill, Gervino said many were able to keep expenses down by getting assistance from municipalities and towns that weren't affected by the storm.

Crews from Barrington, Des Plaines, Lake Zurich, Lindenhurst, McHenry County and Wauconda went to Villa Park to help that village's cleanup effort. They brought wood chippers, bucket trucks and log loaders to help remove debris.

"We've had as many as 10 crews out per day cutting things up, picking it up, getting rid of hazard hanging trees," said Villa Park Public Works Director Vydas Juskelis, adding he expects work to continue for at least a month.

"I'm grateful to all the communities that have come out and helped us," he said. "It's been a tremendous boost. There's just so much debris out there; it's really helping us get a head start on picking things up and getting back to normal."

Carl Goldsmith, Lombard's public works director, estimates the mutual aid the village received from Woodridge, Westmont, Rolling Meadows, Des Plaines and the McHenry County Highway Department saved Lombard nearly $70,000.

Naperville loaned a public works crew to Roselle.

"Tree debris was our main issue from a public safety standpoint," O'Dell said. "But our people did a great job, and with Naperville loaning us a crew, we were able to get things cleared away in a timely fashion."

Winfield Township Highway Commissioner Joe Jedlovec said the township's five-man road crew is relying largely on help from highway districts from as far north as McHenry and Lake counties.

"When there's a problem, we all get together and take care of it," Jedlovec said. "We're probably halfway done, maybe a little more. People in the township are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

While Bloomingdale officials are continuing to tally the price tag for the village's cleanup, they said absorbing the cost shouldn't be too problematic.

Michael Marchi, the director of village services, said tree cleanup was Bloomingdale's biggest challenge and affected all areas. Currently, public works crews are done with removing branches, but residents are still leaving brush to pick up from the storm.

"I think the intense heat following the storm slowed people up with their cleanup," Marchi said.

Bloomingdale's primary financial expense came from hiring three contractors with specialized equipment for the cleanup, including a wood chipper. Marchi said that was an emergency expense, while Bloomingdale's budget already includes provisions for overtime due to weather emergencies.

"It's a matter of how we fare for the winter to see what our whole budget looks like (for overtime)," Marchi said. "But I don't think our dollars will be so extraordinary that we will have a hard time."

• Daily Herald staff writers Josh Stockinger and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.

Debris: Unaffected communities help with cleanup

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