Evanston’s Administration and Public Works Committee Monday is scheduled to discuss whether the city should pay to have snow shoveled for low-income seniors with single-family homes.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) suggested the city explore the idea, and city staff has prepared a detailed memo outlining how similar programs work in two Chicago suburbs — Cicero and Bensenville — and what it might cost to implement such a program here.

The city already has a program that seeks to match up seniors with volunteers willing to shovel snow for them. That program currently has 189 seniors being helped and 93 volunteer snow-shovelers registered to provide the aid.

But it’s not believed that the existing program fully meets the need.

Acting Public Works Director Edgar Cano says 626 single-family homeowners in Evanston qualify for the senior freeze property tax exemption and a few additional homeowners with disabilities might also qualify.

He estimates that around 500 eligible homeowners might choose to participate in such a program, and that average cost of shoveling those walks after a snowfall event would be at least $50,000.

Given that Evanston has had an average of 21 snowfall events a year in recent years, he projects a ballpark annual cost for the program of $1,050,000.

Bensonville splits the cost of its senior snow removal program with residents while Cicero taxpayers absorb the full cost of its program.

Both those communities have less demanding snow removal policies than Evanston, and Cano says they also have more compact residential areas, meaning contractors have less distance to drive between the homes they service than they would here.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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12 Comments

  1. I understand the appeal here and expect negative responses to this comment, but there are certain costs that come with home ownership. Snow removal is one of them. I am not supportive of taking on this cost for seniors (of whom I am one, just in case you think I’m a young person). This program could easily expand to cover leaf removal, lawn cutting, etc. Every snow one other neighbor or I gladly clear the sidewalk for the whole block with our snowblowers. It costs me all of a couple gallons of gas per year. I am not eager to start paying higher property taxes to interpose some business in the mix. When I can no longer do this due to the effects of age, my wife and I already have plans to sell our home and move to a condo that aligns to our physical limitations. I don’t think this is an unreasonable expectation for others.

    1. I agree with Matt. I’m a senior and I would not expect the city to shovel my walks. Where does it end? Should they tend to my gardens? Mow my lawn? Paint the outside of my home? Sorry, I can’t get on board with this policy.

  2. Sure, just make sure to finance it by fining the large businesses that don’t shovel their sidewalks during the winter. Looking at you Southpoint Plaza, on Chicago & Keeney.

  3. This seems like such a great idea! Shoveling snow is very physically exhausting, and can often lead to heart attacks (really, look it up!) While it would be expensive, this program cheaper than the cost of these individual ending up in the emergency room (or worse!) and being unable to pay their bills. Also, as someone who pushes a stroller on winter sidewalks, the guaranteed pedestrian accessibility in front of these homes would benefit the entire community. It’s expensive, but it really would make an immediate impact for many in Evanston.

  4. I can’t fully support this at the cost of taxpayers. Home ownership is about maintenance. If someone has difficulty with maintaining their current residence and cannot hire someone to do it its time to evaluate their needs.

  5. Certainly the walks need to be cleared, and not everyone has helpful and able neighbors to take care of it. But I think first priority is for the City to stop piling snow into crosswalks when they plow the streets. Then, look at how much the City is spending on existing programs for seniors and the disabled, and decide which, if any, should be cut to cover the cost of clearing sidewalks. If the answer is “none,” I guess they need to investigate the possibility of putting a lien on the property for the cost of sidewalk clearing, to be recovered when the owner passes on. Gayle Anderson’s suggestion above is a good one, too, if the City is competent to manage it.

  6. I’m confused. The title says “2,100$/year” while the body says “$1,050,000/year”. But seniors already have a program for this and it’s free. If they aren’t utilizing the volunteer program why would they use this one?

  7. So $50,000/500 homes works out to $100 per home, per event. Seems kind of generous for part time labor.
    If we assume a $25/Hr wage, that’s allowing 3 hrs per home and 1 hr travel per event. In my opinion, that’s about 3 x what’s needed to clear necessary pathways after a typical snow event.
    From my front window on Sheridan road, I have spent the last 3 winters watching snowplows run up and down the street hours before each snowfall starts, so I have a rather jaded attitude about the city’s inclination to waste snow removal funds…

    1. I totally agree; Dir. Cano’s estimate of average cost for a single shoveling to be at least $100 seems way too high. Maybe $50. But even that seems a bit high for most of our events.

  8. I like the idea of a lien against the property. No disrespect to older folks who want to remain in their homes as long as possible, I get it, but if someone wants to stay in their home past the age where it is safe or possible to remove snow that is a choice.

  9. I’m in agreement with most of the comments here – if you own a home, it’s your responsibility to take care of it or find someone else to take care of it (by hiring someone or soliciting a volunteer). It shouldn’t be the taxpayer’s burden; there are many people to volunteer for these things, and many people do! Heck, we all chip in $5 and someone comes to plow out our alley. It doesn’t have to break the bank, even if you are on a fixed income.

    I rent my home, and we have to shovel ourselves. I don’t have the luxury and security of home ownership; I can’t afford to buy a house right now, so why are we giving freebies to people who HAVE houses and hold on to them longer than it is safe or pertinent for them to do so?

    With property taxes skyrocketing in our county, many homeowning seniors already have the tax freeze, and so many are paying significantly reduced taxes. It doesn’t make sense to raise the property taxes for everyone else to cover this expense for them when seniors could just pay something more equivalent to what everyone else has to pay. I don’t mean this to be callous, but if it is a burden to maintain your sidewalk’s snow and ice removal, then you are creating a hazard for yourself and others. I can only imagine what the inside/exterior of these houses look like if they can’t afford to remove snow or do it themselves.

    Seems more like this should be more of a social welfare/wellbeing concern than a monetary concern.

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