February 4, 2011

Elgin's post-blizzard dig continues

Published Feb. 4, 2011
By Ted Schnell • BocaJump
Elgin residents awoke to sunny skies that took a slight edge off the bitter cold on Friday, two days after the end of a blizzard that dumped about 18 inches of snow on the area. City roadways were clearer than they had been since the massive snowstorm hit Tuesday, as Public Works Department crews continued efforts to widen the paths through snow-clogged side streets that just days earlier had been limited in some cases to just one lane.
On Thursday, parking lanes had been mostly cleared along some of those streets on Elgin's southwest side. The cost of the massive cleanup effort is weighing on a lot of minds. City spokeswoman Susan Olafson said she'd been fielding a lot of media calls about the projected cleanup costs but has yet to track down all the details. The police department alone has logged in about $7,500 in overtime, she said, but she said she does not yet have the Public Works Department's costs – deemed to be the largest share of the snow-removal costs. She said she also has questions pending with the city's finance department about how much was budgeted for snow removal.
City Manager Sean Stegall, in a posting on the city's Facebook page, said city crews and private contractors removed 75 semi-truck loads of snow from the downtown Thursday night. And if there are are any criticisms of the snow removal efforts in Elgin, they do not appear to be prevalent on social networking sites.
Elgin's Facebook page is filled with postings by people saying Elgin crews have done great work, especially in comparison with some neighboring communities where snow removal efforts apparently have lagged. On Twitter, many Elgin-area posters were praising the city's efforts – and applauding Stegall's use of Facebook and Twitter to get the work out in real-time on the status of the city's response to the emergency.
Stegall rode with the snow-command crew on Tuesday night, posting updates about progress and images related to the work to both Facebook and Twitter, where residents could keep up to date on the information. But those tools also were a source for feedback – Stegall's postings included responses to observations of issues by residents, meaning the phone no longer was the sole means residents had of apprising officials of problems as they were occurring.
At noon Friday, Mayor Ed Schock lifted the state of emergency he had declared early Monday evening, before the start of the storm. But the work is not over yet. One of Stegall's Facebook postings stated the city has another two nights of snow removal work just in the downtown area. And work remains throughout Elgin.
At some intersections, snow is piled too high to allow good visibility for drivers trying to make turns or cross the other thoroughfares. And the fire department is concerned that fire hydrants may be buried under snow and not easy for emergency personnel to find in the event of an emergency. The city, in a posting on its website, said the fire department and Public Works Department will be clearing and marking the locations of those hydrants in the coming days.
"... But the community's assistance would be welcome," Fire Chief John Fahy said in a statement. "We'll be marking a hydrant's location with florescent-colored wood lath."
If residents see these colored wood strips, they are encouraged to assist firefighters in shoveling out the hydrants to ensure they are accessible from the street.