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Aldermen give snow removal effort mixed reviews

Evanston aldermen had widely differing reactions Monday night about the city's performance clearing snow after last week's blizzard.

A snow plow on Chicago Avenue Monday as more snow fell.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said at the City Council Rules Committee meeting that the work in her ward was very inconsistent.

On some streets, "it's unbelievable how beautiful they are," she said, "but then there are others where it appears as though either people are being forgotten about or punished."

She said she'd received angry calls from residents calling her "every name in the book."

But Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she believes city staff had made "a fantastic effort" to clear the snow and that she'd received many calls praising the work done.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, called the clean-up effort "a mixed bag, a work in progress."

He said he heard about some trouble spots and was able to work with city staff to get them fixed.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she believed the city's performance this time was much better than during the last big blizzard in 1999.

"Compared to that, this was a breeze," Wynne said. "That one was really paralyzing. This storm was potentially even more disabling because of the drifts along Sheridan Road, but it was handled better."

Wynne said the decision to plow alleys "was absolutely the best decision. People recognized that extra effort" to keep people from having their cars trapped in their garages.

A front-end loader moves snow in the vacant lot at Chicago Avenue and Main Street Monday.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, praised the decision to open the city's downtown garages for free parking, which helped reduce the number of cars left on the street.

And Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he appreciated having school parking lots available for residents to move their cars to after the storm so side streets could be cleared.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said there's still no accounting of how much the snow removal effort has cost, but that he planned to have a report ready for the council's March 14 meeting.

He said the city needs to refine its snow emergency parking rules to deal with unusually large storms.

And he said this storm demonstrated that there's a limit to how long people can continue to work 12-hour days.

"By day three or four everyone's getting very tired. So we have to have fresh people coming in, that's clear from this event," Bobkiewicz added.

The city's snow melting machine ready for action.

He said the effort to clear Sheridan Road had slowed work elsewhere in town.

"The 24 hours we spent on Sheridan Road, the shear amount of resources. We had to have the police come out because people were climbing on drifts as we were trying to plow them away. If we could have put those reosurces back in the community, it would have made a difference," he said.

He said the city had benefited from a decision to rent hotel rooms for 30 workers so they could stay in town the night of the storm.

"Some other people said they'd be OK, went home, and then we didn't see them for another two days" because they couldn't get back, Bobkiewicz said.

Bobkiewicz said residents with comments or suggestions about the blizzard cleanup effort can send email to [email protected]

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