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updated: 3/4/2014 8:11 AM

Rough winter costing Arlington Hts. more overtime, salt

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  • Snow plows are working overtime in many suburbs, including Arlington Heights, this winter.

       Snow plows are working overtime in many suburbs, including Arlington Heights, this winter.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

The extra snow and below-average temperatures are costing Arlington Heights more money than expected in salt and overtime costs.

On Monday night, the village board approved additional salt purchases and a transfer of funds to accommodate extra Public Works overtime being spent to keep up with the weather.

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"Due to the severity of this winter the Public Works Department has exceeded its budget for overtime," said Village Manager Bill Dixon.

The Public Works Department had budgeted $509,500 for overtime, department head Scott Shirley said, but has already spent $580,000.

The board approved a transfer of $150,000 from the contingency fund to the public works budget to make up for what has already been spent and give the department some breathing room for the rest of the year.

The average snowfall in Arlington Heights over the past three years has been about 44 inches per winter, Dixon said. So far this winter, Arlington Heights has seen nearly double that amount with many snow and ice events occurring on weekends.

"This shows we are fortunate enough to have a contingency account for expenses just like this," Dixon said.

Several trustees praised the Public Works Department for its efforts in keeping the roads clear and safe this winter.

"No one likes to spend money, but this is exactly when you need to do it so I'm 100 percent in favor of this," said Trustee Jim Tinaglia.

Shirley said the overtime budget is not just for snow; it also can be used for flooding, water main breaks or building issues that can happen year-round.

The board also approved a purchase of 200 additional tons of salt that the department made in February.

Arlington Heights allotted 8,000 tons of salt for this winter but had already used more than 6,000 tons, not including what was spread during last weekend's snowfall.

The village paid $79.98 per ton for the additional salt, bought from North American Salt Co. of Overland, Kan. At the start of the season, the price was $53.38 a ton through the state buying contract.

Village documents showed that other suburbs now are having to pay more than $200 per ton from some vendors.

Shirley said the department was not in danger of running out of salt, but the additional purchase provides a little cushion for the rest of the winter. The department has responded to 28 snow and ice events to date.

"We're in good shape now," Shirley said. "We can't go to the end and use the last gravel. You never know in March."

The winter has been hard on the department in other ways also.

Shirley said workers have responded to about 100 water main breaks, up from about 70 in a normal winter. He said the ground is also frozen much deeper than usual, sometimes almost 6 feet below the surface, meaning it can take crews several hours of digging just to reach thawed ground.

There are also 22 households in the village that have frozen service lines and are getting water through a hose from a neighbor, something that usually happens to only one or two houses a year, Shirley said.

For those households, there's nothing to do except wait for the thaw, Shirley said.

"This polar vortex thing has definitely been very dramatic," Shirley said.

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