Wicked winter takes toll on city budgets

By WEEK Producer

February 17, 2014 Updated Feb 18, 2014 at 12:09 AM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill -- As this winter inches toward the record books, it's already setting records for cities across the area.

Between salt use and plow driver overtime, this year's budget is blown.

Snow and ice coated rush hour roads greeted Bloomington plow drivers Monday morning.

"Salt has been a challenge for the central Illinois area. Just deliveries, allowing that salt to get to you. You can make the order, but actually getting it. We've used almost 10,000 tons this year already, usually we use about 6,000 tons," said Jim Karch, Bloomington public works director.

The City's salt supply is dwindling because icy rivers are slowing the barge with the new order. Right now the City has just 1,000 tons left.

"That will take care of another three events, smaller events, but again with that ice, that's where it can really be difficult. If we have to salt the entire community that can really take a lot of salt," said Karch.

"We're where we should be this time of year," said David Haste, Peoria public works director.

After two mild winters, Peoria came into the season with 15,000 tons of salt. Now city crews are using salt conservatively to stretch the remaining 3,000 tons as far as possible.

"We've reduced some rates and added in some sand or slag, to that we add some calcium chloride or a brine mix," said Haste. "So we're still trying to get the full strength out of less salt by using liquids."

Both cities are trying to get as much out of their plow drivers as well.

Bloomington budgets $75,000 a year for driver overtime and before Monday's snow event they had spent at least three times that. Peoria's plow driver overtime is also significantly over budget.

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