Champaign Public Works presents winter plan to Council

By Patrick Wade

Before the first flakes even hit the road, the city of Champaign is preparing for the winter’s snowy streets.

Champaign Public Works staff presented a report to the City Council on Tuesday night detailing how the department intends to deal with this winter’s snowfall. The Council unanimously approved the plan.

Tom Schuh, operations manager for public works, said the department has already spent time preparing for snowy or icy streets. The department has filled storage tanks with deicing chemicals, and public works staff training is to be completed by Thursday.

“I think year after year they have proven that they’re top notch,” said Assistant City Manager Dorothy David.

The Public Works Department has 37 staff members trained on the equipment used to plow the city’s approximately 300 miles of primary and secondary streets. In large snowfalls, those 37 staff members split into two shifts, each of which works 12 hours at a time.

Schuh said the department tries to clear primary routes, streets that provide access to schools, hospitals and major commercial centers, within 12 hours of a snow event to “near bare condition.” Primary routes are strategically chosen to place everyone within three blocks of a main street.

The department tries to clear secondary routes within 24 hours of completing the primary routes, Schuh said, and will not usually require public works staff to work overtime.

The plan comes less than a month after the Council approved an ordinance requiring property owners to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks following a two-inch snowfall.

During the debates over the ordinance, which went into effect Nov. 1, business owners expressed concerns of city plows pushing snow from the streets back onto their recently shoveled walks. Schuh said the department is still unsure of how to deal with this problem.

“The sidewalk snow (ordinance) is fairly new to us,” Schuh said. “We’re developing a plan.”