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posted: 1/31/2014 3:12 PM

Snow plowing, salt costs piling up in Naperville

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  • Plows have cleared streets nine times this winter in Naperville and applied salt 20 times to help de-ice roads that have been coated with 37.85 inches of snow. The city already has spent $1.9 million on winter operations, and the city council is set to vote on increases to contracts for extra snow plows and road salt during its meeting Tuesday night.

       Plows have cleared streets nine times this winter in Naperville and applied salt 20 times to help de-ice roads that have been coated with 37.85 inches of snow. The city already has spent $1.9 million on winter operations, and the city council is set to vote on increases to contracts for extra snow plows and road salt during its meeting Tuesday night.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

Naperville's public works department started the winter with a snow plowing contractor budget of $383,250 and salt stockpiles more than 16,000 tons deep -- enough to make it through an "average winter season."

But as the city council will see during its meeting Tuesday night, neither amount has proved sufficient this winter, which has brought above average snowfall and below average temperatures week after week.

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With Naperville's snow plowing budget almost exhausted and salt piles down to roughly 4,000 tons, the city is requesting additional funding and planning ways to stretch the salt it has on hand.

Salt will be mixed with sand during snowfalls expected Saturday, Tuesday and the rest of the season as Naperville and other area municipalities deal with what spokeswoman Linda LaCloche called a regional salt shortage.

"With the slow trickle of salt we've seen throughout the season and obviously the large number of snow events we've dealt with, we've now reached the point where we need to supplement our salt and mix it with sand," LaCloche said.

The city is awaiting delivery of 8,000 tons out of a 12,000-ton order it placed with Cargill Salt through a state joint purchasing contract, LaCloche said. The order cost $601,169, but it came with the potential to buy an additional 2,367 tons of salt at the same price of $49.96 per ton.

So even while waiting for most of the original order to arrive, city staff members are requesting council's approval to spend an additional $58,649 to max out the amount of salt that can be purchased under the contract.

"We anticipate that the price of salt may increase substantially next year, and recommend that we buy the maximum allowed under the existing contract," chief procurement officer Michael Bevis said in a memo.

If the additional salt purchase is approved, it would bring the total spent on the substance to $719,425.

Council members at Tuesday's 7 p.m. meeting in the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St., also will be asked to approve spending an additional $190,000 to pay snow plowing contractors, who help clear cul-de-sacs and finish snow removal more quickly after storms. The city already has spent $367,036 of the $383,250 budgeted for such services, and more storms are on the way.

Snow plowing has been necessary nine times and crews have been sent to the streets 20 times to help melt ice, according to a memo from Bevis. These efforts have removed 37.85 inches of snow at a combined cost of $1.9 million, which factors in the cost of salt, calcium chloride applied to salt before it's spread, plowing contractors, regular staff pay and overtime.

The $1.9 million spent on snow operations this season tops the $1.19 million total from the past two winters combined. In winter 2011-12, the city spent $755,672 to remove snow and last winter, it spent $441,645.

The extra $190,000 being requested would pay contracted snowplow drivers for three extra plowing efforts and eight more rounds of de-icing, Bevis said, and it would bring the plowing contract total to $573,250. Public works will look to cut costs elsewhere to absorb the extra expense. Or if fewer storms occur, the money will be returned to the city's general fund.

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