If Evanston wanted to relieve property owners of the job of shoveling public sidewalks, it could cost in the neighborhood of $5 million a year.
That’s based on a quote obtained by Downtown Evanston for plowing and salting sidewalks downtown and in two smaller business districts.
Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, says Brightview, the company that does maintenance work in the downtown special service area, provided a quote of $60,000 a year for snow removal only or $140,000 for snow removal and salting.
That would call for clearing a four-foot-wide path on sidwalks after any snowfall of one inch or more, with a seasonal cap of 40 inches.
Based on a map of the area that would be covered by the proposed contract, it appears that it would cover sidewalks on both sides of roughly 3.7 miles of city streets. Scale that up to cover the entire roughly 145 miles of roads in Evanston, and the cost would be about $2.4 million for just shoveling or nearly $5.5 million for shoveling and salting.
A stretch of unshoveled walk along Ridge Avenue this winter.
Aldermen next Monday are scheduled to adopt an ordinance that would require property owners and tenants to clear public walks after any snowfall. Under the current rule, only snowfalls greater than four inches trigger the shovelling requirement.
When the ordinance was introduced at the Council’s Feb. 10 meeting, some aldermen complained that the fines proposed by staff for violators — which ranged from $150 for a first violation to $750 for a third offense — were too high.
So Monday staff will suggest a reduced fine schedule ranging from $50 to $450.
For individuals to contract privately to have their walks shoveled can be more expensive than running the risks of fines.
Rick Sweitzer of Mellow Brothers painting and snow removal service in Wilmette says that for a house with 50-feet of street frontage he’d need to charge around $500 a year to remove snowfalls of three inches or more, and that to remove every snowfall of an inch or more the price would be closer to $1,000.
Since the city only investigates snow shoveling violations if a neighbor complains, the potential for shoveling scofflaws to save money by taking a chance on being reported would clearly exist under either fine schedule.
Divide $5 million by more than 30,000 Evanston households, and the cost per household to contract out the work collectively could be less than $200 a year.
That, of course, assumes the city could find one or more contractors with the capacity to take on the job.
Coakley says her board of directors is not inclined to take on the shoveling task for downtown because of concerns about complaints regarding the service and potential legal liability.
She says many special service areas organizations in Chicago have stopped providing shoveling service in their neighborhoods for those reasons.
Similarly, Evanston city staff have been reluctant to even consider the prospect of the city taking on responsibility for sidewalk shoveling, although some nearby communities do offer such a service.