Hoffman Estates prepares for snow and ice
It's only the first week of November, but Hoffman Estates is ready for snow.
On Thursday, more than 50 workers attended an 8-hour snow and ice control training session at the village's public works department, learning their routes, familiarizing themselves with equipment and prepping for what is always an unpredictable winter.
Hoffman Estates snow operations by the numbers
41 — Number of trucks (17 large plowing/salting trucks and 24 smaller trucks)
81 — Number of employees (46 full-time public works employees and 35 auxiliary)
5,550 — Tons of salt
Nov. 17, 2000 — Earliest first response to snowfall in last 12 years
Dec. 19, 2001 — Latest first response to snowfall in last 12 years
$184,911 — Cost of last season's salt
$1.7 million — FY 2011 total expenditures on snow/ice control
367 — Cul-de-sacs
10 — Parking lots
158.4 — Center lane miles of street
Assistant Director of Public Works Ken Gomoll said the weather was cooler than usual for a training day, with temperatures hovering a little above 30 degrees when the day started at 6:30 a.m.
"We're used to training in 50, 45 degree weather," he said, adding that training always takes place in the last week of October or the first week of November. Luckily, in his 35 years with the department, it has never snowed before training.
Last winter's unseasonably warm weather resulted in a lot of money savings for the village, Gomoll said.
"A lot of municipalities had to find places to store salt that they were obligated to purchase through the state co-op," he said. "We were fortunate enough, because of the size of our dome, that we were able to receive all of the salt."
The dome is currently full, with 5,500 tons of salt. The village spent $184,911 on salt last year but hasn't had to buy more this year because so much was left over from last winter.
Last season the department also didn't have to pay any overtime. Nor did it have to put to work its 35 temporary employees — many of whom are Hoffman Estates police officers and firefighters who work on their off hours, or construction workers looking for work when their business slows down.
Of course, other years haven't been as mild. For Gomoll, some of the most extreme snow conditions came in his second year on the job.
"The '78-79 winter was very impressive, especially since I was pretty new at the time," he said. "It was an interesting season for me."
He said the hardest part of the job is how it can affect the workers' routine.
"When you're working 12 hours on, 12 hours off, for five, six days in a row it can wear on one's personal life," he said.
Nick Lackowski, a maintenance employee and staff arborist, has done the job for 15 years.
"It can be life-altering at times," he said with a laugh. "Snow and ice control always takes precedence over our daily job function."
Like other workers, one snowstorm that stands out for Lackowski was what he called the "Snowpocalypse" in February 2011.
"It was quite exhausting, but we got over it," he said.
Despite the weird hours and sometimes frightful weather, Lackowski said he enjoys being a plow driver.
"It's very dynamic," he said. "There's no snowstorm that's ever the same. It's always something different."
The department is still hiring four auxiliary snowplow drivers. For information on the position, visit the human resources management page at hoffmanestates.com or call (847) 781-2690.
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