Wednesday, February 21, 2007
sponsored by Jake's Furnishings & Illini Bank

City recaps recent snow removal  efforts

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[February 21, 2007]  Last week's blizzard that dumped upwards of 14 inches snow and delivered 40 mph winds created challenges for everyone. For the most effective public safety, road crews statewide focused their efforts in collaboration with emergency responder needs during the critical period of the storm.

At Tuesday night's meeting Mayor Beth Davis thanked Lincoln Streets Department Superintendent Tracy Jackson, all his crew, police and fire department personnel, "and everyone who helped during this very trying, trying time." She said, "I know you didn't get to things as quickly or as fast as we wanted."

She then stressed that the last similar snow amount was back several administrations ago, about 1978. At that time the streets department had 14 on staff. This time we had eight working and one man out sick, she said.

The department not only had fewer men, but also had equipment failures to work around. Jackson said they are still down one plow and one dump truck.

The men worked hard all week. During the critical times they'd work 18 hours, then take a couple hours' nap and were back out there, the mayor said.

Jackson said they put in 180 hours of overtime last week. Two guys even canceled their vacations to work.

There has been some complaint about road widths. But Jackson said that for the amount of snow, they couldn't push any closer without breaking mailboxes. They didn't widen some of the streets because it would bury cars back in, he said. "I think the guys did an outstanding job," he said.

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"For all you that had patience, we really thank you very much," the mayor said. "Others, we're very sorry we couldn't get to you; we got to you as quickly as possible. People that called in with cardiac or health problems, we tried to react fast as we could to help with that."

The city police, fire and streets departments all remain short-staffed since cutbacks in 2002 when the country experienced the national recession that followed 9/11 and the loss a major employer, Lincoln Developmental Center. These led to a drop in tax revenues and drastic cuts in interest rates on the city's investments.

While local and national economics have improved and revenues have increased, there have also been higher costs, such as health and liability insurances, rocketing fuel prices, and now a jump in energy costs.

The move to reinstate the shortages comes up several times a year at council meetings. Always, the consensus has been to treat all departments equally when the manpower is restored.

[Jan Youngquist]

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