Evanston’s public works chief says the city’s streets are not as clear as they’d normally be the morning after a snowstorm because of a salt shortage.

David Jennings says that on Wednesday “our salt supplier notified us that they could not honor the balance of our current order, about 1,100 tons, due to difficulties in getting their supply of salt to the distribution point that serves us.”

In addition, he said the city is “over our allocation and there are many communities who are not that will be supplied when the salt arrives. ”

“We ordered 2,000 tons before the salt ‘rationing’ was to take place in this area, so we thought we would be covered.  However, with the current development, we were not,” he added.

Jennings says city crews have stopped salting residential streets, but are continuing to plow.  “This means that most of these streets will develop “snowpack” which is smooth in some areas, but tends to rut and develop a washboard surface as traffic packs it down.”

“We have cut our salt with sand and Geomelt, an environmentally friendly liquid deicer applied to the salt, to extend the life of the salt supply.  We are only using this on arterial streets and hills and curves.  Also, we are applying this sparingly when we do use it,” he said.

He said the city has also stopped selling salt to agencies included Northwestern University and the local school districts that it normally sells salt to.

In addition, he said, “We are switching to a different product than rock salt for sidewalks, parking lots, and similar areas. It is more expensive, but at least it is available and will keep the areas much safer than not using anything.”

Snow parking restrictions remain in effect.

Today crews are clearing the odd-numbered sides of residential streets between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. The even-numbered sides of residential streets are scheduled to be cleaned on Friday. Violators are subject to ticketing and towing.

Another overnight snow route parking ban will be in effect from 11 p.m. tonight until 6 a.m. Friday, so work can continue on the arterial streets and business areas.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. The city’s excuse does not
    The city’s excuse does not wash. There is no justifiable reason for a salt shortage, unless inept planning by city managers is now considered justified. Urban Planning 101: There should have been a contingency plan in place to replace any shortfalls in salt. Winter comes every year.
    Evanston residents pay extremely high taxes and have every right to expect the city to manage better than it has this season. By the way, part of the downtown streets and sidewalks are snow-caked and ice-packed—well after the storm, not to mention the same goingon over the city streets and sidestreets.
    Have you niriced? Skokie, Wilmette and other nearby burbs aren’t having the same clearing and cleaning problems.

    1. Snow job
      Yes, I am annoyed by the conditions of our roads too. I had to drive to Chicago yesterday, and noticed how nice the roads suddenly became once I crossed over to the Chicago side on Sheridan. Too bad that Evanston isn’t a ‘miny Chicago’ when it comes to snowplows. And today – these clumps of ice and snow on our streets are as bad as potholes.

      1. Z- you have come over to the dark side!
        Z- you have become a complainer like the rest of us! The snow will melt soon enough and go alway – not like the pension problem it will be around a long time. Maybe in a few more years you will understand – why some of us are less than pleased with the operation of things here – J

        1. dark side
          Junad –
          Actually, Bill edited out my last two paragraphs. What they were saying was that maybe we should have spent more money on salt instead of elm injections, etc.
          Bill pointed out that the salt shortage isn’t due to lack of funds, but bad management. Fair enough. But maybe all of these arguments about elms, saving the decrepit civic center, arbitrarily rezoning Kendall, etc. have distracted our city leaders from the important goals.


          Zack … Actually I suggested to you that it was either management errors or an “act of God.” I don’t claim to know how often the “ice on the river blocking delivery by barge” problem has occurred, and until we know that we can’t be sure whether it was something that the people buying salt should reasonably have anticipated or not. Communities only have a limited amount of covered storage space for salt and if you leave it out in the open it melts away, wasting your money and creating pollution problems. — Bill

          1. Z
            Zack – you need to put you full name in if you do not want to be edit out. that is one of the rules of the site. Today at council they finally after three years agreed the elm injection program worked and they are going to keep it, it actually saves money – that is what most of us were saying all along.

            Actually the council members pick and chose what they want to work on – we citizens get 3 minutes to speak – if they knew what they were doing they would not be distracted.

  2. I agree. This is no excuse.
    I agree. This is no excuse. The city should have a back-up vendor. I would have more sympathy for the city if this was a one-time occurrence, but it is not. This is a pattern that is unjustifiable. For example, just two weeks ago, Green Bay Road and Ridge Avenue were a dangerous slushy mess. As soon as I passed Howard and Ridge, the streets were perfectly clean. And, it’s taking the city so long to clean up this mess that people are still getting their cars towed for parking on side streets before 9. The lack of planning and lack of resources are inexcusable.

  3. its like driving off road on
    its like driving off road on road..its horrible for cars and the city of evanston with its taxes being so high can’t provide its residents with clear streets.. and they have the nerve to continue the strict policy of parking..towing cars..on such short notice while it takes days now probably weeks for clear roads.

  4. This is unacceptable
    This is unacceptable performance by City staff. No contigency plans? No risk mitigation plans? If I recall correctly, a certain mayor lost his job over snow in the 80’s. Didn’t we hire a city manager recently ??

  5. Salt and Snow
    Did any of you nay sayers bother to ask for an explanation of what was meant by Mr. Jennings’ remarks in his email / posting about the salt shortage? I did, and his response follows:

    “Our allocation in this context refers to what we ordered at the beginning of the season. We look at our history and the budgeted dollars and try to estimate what we will need – that amount is requisitioned and agreed to. Morton has already supplied about 40% more than we initially asked for, so before they deliver the balance of our latest order, they will honor their commitments to others whose initial allotment has not been met yet. Hope this helps.”

    It isn’t pretty, but it makes sense to me. The city did its part as far as I can see(except for maybe having a second vendor, if one exists, and at a reasonable cost).

  6. Salt shortage
    This lack-of-salt situation is utterly ridiculous. When the trucks plow and don’t salt, they leave the recipe for terror for a person with disabilities, like myself. At least if they don’t plow, I’ll have the traction of the snow to walk on. I pay for a handicapped parking space in front of my building, yet I can’t get to my car without help because there’s a big block of ice on the ground all the way around my car. I am expected, when I hear the air siren, to go out to move my car or risk having it towed and ticked for some outrageous amount of money. Last time when it snowed, I took off on the Friday (Feb. 1st). I had ask someone to go out and move my car because I couldn’t walk in the snow. Now, I can’t get to work on time because I have to wait for someone to help me to walk out to my car in the mornings, depend on the mercy of someone to help me to my sidewalk at night, and get in and out of my car on the passenger’s side because of the big block of ice in the street. Thankfully, I have a good range-of-motion in the knee that was replaced. Let’s get new city officials!

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