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Salty state: Lisle Public Works nears top of salt, overtime budget

Published: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 2:03 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:32 a.m. CDT

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LISLE – Although the Lisle Public Works Department has not reached its budgeted amounts for salt and overtime, the frequent snowfalls have caused higher-than-average spending this winter. 

Jason Elias, public works director for the village, said the two main items the department focuses on each winter – salt and overtime – were budgeted for expenditures of $115,000 and $65,000, respectively, this year. So far, the department has spent $95,000 on salt and $54,000 on overtime, he said.

“The frequency of the events has really taken its toll,” Elias said. “It has also snowed on holidays and weekends, which make it hard for our staff to get a break. Our staff has worked extremely hard this winter.” 

Elias said he believes this winter has been the worst he has dealt with in his career.

In a typical winter, the department uses about 1,600 tons of salt, Elias said. But this winter, the department has already used about 2,000 tons. 

“We’ve used 400 tons more than a typical winter and we still have a month and a half [of winter] to go,” Elias said. “But we should be OK with our salt budget given the supply we have on hand.” 

There is about 850 tons of salt available and money set aside in the budget to purchase another 360 tons of salt if needed, Elias said. 

Lisle’s Public Works Department uses salt mixed with liquid calcium chloride, which lowers the effective temperature of the salt, Elias said. But with the sub-zero temperatures this winter, the salt mix cannot melt the ice when it is too cold outside. 

“That is why you’ve seen more snow frozen on the streets than usual this winter,” Elias said. 

The department also tried to use a beet juice product this year and is in the process of evaluating its effectiveness, Elias said. 

Although Elias is comfortable with Lisle’s salt supply, he said the department might go over its overtime budget. The department’s overtime is used throughout the fiscal year, which ends April 30, and the majority of the overtime is used during the winter, Elias said. 

“We may go over budget with overtime depending on the number of events that happen the rest of winter along with any other emergency callouts through the rest of the fiscal year,” Elias said. “This year has been very busy.”

Elias said emergency callouts for the department are any callout that is needed after normal work hours that cannot wait until the next business day, such as water main breaks, sewer backups or downed trees.

This year, public works has reached 30 callouts, which surpasses its record of 29 callouts in a year. In 2013, the department reached 21 callouts and in 2012 it had 13 callouts. 

“We are all hoping for a mild February,” Elias said. 

The department focuses on snow and ice control each winter and is responsible for clearing all of Lisle’s streets, including around the Metra station, except for the state and county roads, Elias said. The department has seven large snowplow trucks that are run in two, 12-hour shifts during snow events. 

“We are working around the clock during storms,” Elias said. 

When the department is not actively working a storm, they prepare equipment and materials for the next storm. Elias said frequently cleaning the snowplow trucks is vital to ensure they are not damaged by salt. 

During the winter months, public works must also continue its regular maintenance programs, such as pothole repair, tree trimming, sewer flushing and maintaining Lisle’s water system. 

“Winter is a very busy season for us,” Elias said. 

Elias advised residents to drive slow, watch for snowplow trucks and be patient with the public works staff. 

“We are working very hard to make sure Lisle streets are cleared as quickly and safely as possible,” Elias said. 

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