As spring quarter begins and the memory of Evanston’s snowiest winter fades, the city continues to cope with its costly legacy.
A record-setting 90.9 inches of snow fell this past winter, which combined with the extreme cold of the Polar Vortices has cost the city almost $1.5 million dollars, according to Director of Public Works Suzette Robinson, who spoke at the Evanston City Council meeting on Monday night.
The expenses exceeded Public Works’ 2014 budget for coping with cold weather by more than $600,000, according to Robinson. However, Robinson said, the costs could have been much higher if the city hadn’t bought new technology to more efficiently salt the roads.
“We learned our lesson, upped our ante, and improved our equipment,” said Robinson, “to make sure we didn’t find ourselves in that situation again.”
Robinson added that many neighboring cities ran out of salt, didn’t prepare the roads as well and consequently had to spend much more money this winter than Evanston.
“Public works were fantastic this year,” said Alderman Colleen Burrus (9th Ward). “When I saw the $600,000 I actually thought it was going to be a lot more.”
However, the costs of the winter are still rising, even though the only remaining snow and ice hides in small, stubborn patches in the shade.
The city council unanimously voted Monday night to spend up to $225,000 dollars to patch the potholes that resulted from the winter. The council also voted to spend an additional $41,625 dollars to buy semi-trucks that were rented for snow removal in February for use in future winters.
Additionally, Robinson said, possible snowstorms in the upcoming December could further stress a budget for 2014 that’s already straining.
Much of the expenses from the winter are straightforward, stemming from overtime pay for snowplow drivers, for salt and other materials, and for towing. But the inclement weather has caused about $110,000 in 2014 for unexpected and odd miscellaneous costs, Robinson said.
For example, the weather got so cold in January that about 80 trees in Evanston cracked down the middle, and then the city had to pay to remove them, according to Assistant Director of Public Works Paul D’Agostino.
D’Agostino said he’d never seen weather cold enough to crack trees to this extent before, but that future budgets might have to take this into consideration. Global warming, he said, might mean more costly winters.