Evanston snow removal costs nearly $370,000 under budget after mild winter

Manuel Rapada

Evanston’s snow removal costs for 2012 are running almost $370,000 under budget due to the mild winter, according to the city’s website.

According to city figures released Friday, Evanston received 16 inches of snow this year, compared to an average of more than 38 inches. The city has also responded to just 24 instances of snow and ice, less than half as many instances as during the 2010-2011 winter season.

With less spending on overtime wages for staff, less towing during restricted snow parking periods and less salt for roadways, the city used less than half of the $635,000 budgeted for snow removal this year.

But at least one Evanston official isn’t ready to celebrate.

“While we saved a lot of money this year, there’s always December,” said Jim Maiworm, the city’s superintendent of streets and sanitation.

Evanston’s public works department has not discussed the opportunity to roll over savings to the next fiscal year or spend the money on other projects, he said.

Maiworm, who started his position in November, said although he does not expect late November and December snowfall to deplete the current savings, the city still needs those funds just in case.

In addition to cost savings from low snowfall, Maiworm said supervisory staff is “very cognizant of our bottom line,” adding that declaring a snow emergency is both a major expense and an inconvenience for the community. The city may also lower its salt budget next fiscal year in light of low salt usage this winter, he added.

The nearly 80 percent jump in the snow removal budget this fiscal year, from $355,000 to $635,000, was partly caused by the city’s move from a 10-month to a full calendar year budget, Maiworm said.

Last fiscal year ended with approximately $190,000 of savings. But with Evanston’s special 2011 budget period lasting from March 1 to Dec. 31, costs from the February 2011 blizzard were not reflected in that figure.

Maiworm said the city has not had a storm this year that has caused as much trouble as that blizzard. Though some area communities exceeded their snow removal budgets that year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered grants to help municipalities cover costs, he said.

As summer approaches, Evanston is shifting from snow response to planned construction-related activities, such as repairing streets, curbs and sidewalks. Maiworm said he will still monitor what could happen at the end of the year.

“Winter spans the budget season, so for me, fiscally speaking, winter is not yet over,” he said.