Snow has settled, blame hasn’t

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11660400547817.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Fifth Ward Alderman Victory Bell said he's disgusted because plowing contractors aren't doing their job.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116604009626496.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Mary Olson, owner of Paragon On State, said parking decks need better lighting and security.’);

Responding to numerous questions and criticisms posed at the Dec. 4 Rockford City Council meeting, officials issued new reports regarding the city’s response to the Dec. 1 snowstorm.

Public Works Superintendent Bill Morr’s reports indicate, as of Dec. 10, salting, plowing and snow removal cost Rockford $642,568 for this storm alone. The city has budgeted $1.8 million to the cause for the current fiscal year.

Bill Bittner, director of Public Works, said, “If FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) determines that the snowfall levels were at an unusual amount, the City will be eligible for reimbursement of some of the cost incurred.”

“We know we had some areas of the city that had better results than others,” explained Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I). “In particular, our concern was the residential plowing efforts.”

In response to complaints of lagging residential snow removal, Bittner said the nearly 11 inches of heavy snowfall in less than 10 hours was a rare event, resulting in a longer cleanup than with a storm of less severity.

The 10.7 inches of snow that fell Dec. 1 account for nearly a third of Rockford’s 35-inch annual average.

The cost of city crews for plowing and salt-spreading related to the storm was $140,400.

According to Morr’s report, crews spread 4,000 tons of salt—$196,000 worth—since the storm hit. Not everyone feels the City got what it paid for.

“We had a very poor snow removal in my ward,” said Ald. Victory Bell (D-5) during the Dec. 11 City Council meeting. “There is no reason I should still be getting calls about snow and ice. I am disgusted with the fact that the contractors are not doing their job.”

Rabine, Inc., the only firm to bid for the plowing of residential streets, was awarded the contract. City crews are mainly responsible for the plowing of arterial streets and salting. The contractors, who are paid by the hour, earned $306,168 for snow plowing and removal related to the Dec. 1 storm.

“Generally, plowing of neighborhood streets is started when the snowfall is subsiding,” Bittner reported, adding that varying the start time would not have significantly affected operations. “Starting in the middle of a storm requires that a significant amount of the community be plowed twice. This extends the time for completion and increases cost significantly.”

Bell, however, pointed out city crews still had to be sent back out to areas that were already supposed to have been completed by contractors, which means the city paid twice for a job that should have been done right the first time.

“One of the things that angers taxpayers is when we seem to not be able to do simple things,” Bell explained. The Fifth Ward alderman then asked the mayor to urge better oversight from supervisors.

Bittner argued a reduction in plowing time would require additional resources, which is bound to be addressed in upcoming budget discussions.

The city has used 35.7 percent of its snow and ice control budget for the season, which lasts from November to April.

For more information about the City of Rockford’s snow and ice control program, visit:

From the Dec. 13-19, 2006, issue

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