JOLIET – The City of Joliet would have spent as much as $500,000 using outside contractors to plow neighborhood streets during the Feb. 1 snowstorm, according to a staff report up for discussion at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The report reviews the city's response to the snowstorm, during which it took days to clear neighborhood streets, and looks for future options.
City Council members, dealing with phone calls from constituents demanding their streets be cleared, called for the report at their Feb. 3 meeting.
Hiring outside contractors to plow neighborhood streets already has been laid out as a temporary solution if the city were hit by another severe snowstorm.
Joliet received more than 15 inches of snow in what city officials said was the fifth-heaviest snowstorm recorded in the area since 1880.
"City staff estimates the cost to employ contractors for subdivision plowing during this last event would have cost $300,000 to $500,000," the report states. "The city has a list of several contractors that have offered to provide plowing services with the needed equipment."
The report also outlines the cost of expanding road crews and equipment – as many as 11 more trucks – at a cost of about $3.8 million, although it is not clear whether staff is recommending that spending.
Councilmen Larry Hug and Bob O'Dekirk said they believe the city needs more trucks and drivers. They also said the city may need to phase in the expansion to absorb the costs.
The report said Joliet already has more trucks than other comparable cities – Aurora, Naperville and Rockford. But those cities make more use of contracted snow plows.
Joliet only uses contractors to clear cul-de-sacs. All main and residential streets are cleaned by city crews.
One councilman already is objecting to using outside contractors to plow more city streets.
"You lose accountability and efficiency and, in the end, it costs more money," Councilman Jim McFarland said.
McFarland wants the city to hire part-time, seasonal employees who would be part of the city union that represents public works employees and would be called into service to plow streets.
Other information in the report includes:
• Calls to City Hall in the aftermath of the storm reached a peak of 6,291, or 262 calls an hour, on Feb. 4.
• The city issued 227 tickets for parking violations during the snowstorm and another 110 tickets through Feb. 4. Most of the later tickets were for cars left in the street that inhibited snow-clearing efforts.
• Police handled 58 accidents from late on the night of Jan. 31 through the afternoon of Feb. 2.