When we talk about this past winter, we tend to remember it in terms of the 80 inches of snow or days spent in subzero temperatures. But what we tend to forget is the man hours, materials and wear and tear on equipment it takes to keep our streets clean and safe for the public.
This is a recap of last winter, from the Downers Grove Township Highway Department’s perspective.
The first flurries fell in a soft spiral on Oct. 22. They were beautiful and in no way an indication of the maelstrom to come. The first dusting appeared Nov. 26. Salt cleared the streets in a couple of hours. Winter in Downers Grove Township had begun.
Over the next four months, I would call the crew out 53 more times. Eight of those calls would fall on holidays and another eight would fall on Sundays. The longest period the crew would go without a day off was five weeks. Our crew consists of 10 drivers and 10 plows, with two additional pickup trucks used as backups. The most vehicles broken down at one point was four. During storms, crews would finish their assigned route then head over to help on other routes because of other plows being out of commission. Overall, our plow drivers logged in 624 straight time hours and 1,490 overtime hours.
The coldest temperature we worked in was 17 degrees below zero. We had ordered a much needed delivery of salt that week, but were told by the salt company that it was too cold for the trucks to deliver! We would have to wait five days for the cold snap to end before we could receive our salt.
We started our season with 300 tons of salt in our dome. We contracted for another 800 tons with the ability to purchase an additional 160 tons at the same price of $49 a ton. We purchased all 960 tons of salt and were told the new price would be in the neighborhood of $200 per ton, if we were lucky enough to get it. We had been conservative with our salt, so fortunately, we did not have to purchase any salt at this inflated rate. We started mixing sand with our salt in January and used 100 tons. In all, we spent $66,570 on salt and sand. We ended winter with 100 tons of sand/salt mix for next year.
As April showers bring May flowers, the Highway Department will switch over from asphalt patching to “right of way” mowing and culvert replacement. No matter what the season, my dedicated staff works hard to keep our road system safe while maintaining the most efficient level of government. Township government delivers the best service at the lowest cost.
Lawrence Anderson is the commissioner of the Downers Grove Township Highway Department.