Plainfield ready for winter with improved plan, new contractors

Brock A. Stein | 10/27/2015, 9:29 a.m.
Following a heavy storm in February, Plainfield Public Works officials say they are ready for anything Mother Nature throws at ...
An intergovernmental agreement between the village of Plainfield and Plainfield and Wheatland townships will allow all three governments to share snow removal equipment and resources.

Plainfield public works crews will supplement their snow removal operations during heavy snow storms with more contractors and possibly some part time employees this winter.

The added help is in response to an unexpectedly powerful snow storm that dumped 14 inches of snow on the village over the last weekend of January rendering many side streets and cul-de-sacs impassable.

As part of its initial budget review for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Public Works Director Allen Persons reviewed plans to double the number of plow contractors from 3 to 6 and sought input from the village board about adding part-timers to supplement removal operations during particularly heavy events such as the one that started on January 31.

Persons said that the village received about 200 phone calls from residents disappointed in the slow response to digging out streets and in particular cul-de-sacs which were still being cleared on the Monday after the storm had passed.

Many residents recommended hiring additional permanent crew personnel as well as more investment in heavy equipment to move snow, though Persons said that the handful of heavy snow events each season wouldn’t make the investments fiscally responsible.

Instead the village has sought more on-call contractors and has partnered with nearby Plainfield Township and Wheatland Township to assist with road clearing.

Trustees supported the idea of hiring additional part-timers in the current budget year even if it meant passing a budget amendment.

Trustee Margie Bonuchi said that having the capability to clear roads and make them passable was an essential function for the public works department.

“I think it’s a life safety issue and a service issue for the village," said Bonuchi who called the revamped snow plans a “big improvement."

Persons said that the village also updated its snow removal handbook for employees which he said “codified” some of the general knowledge that wasn’t written in to the formal policies in dealing with snowstorms. He pointed to the review process after the storm which indicated that the response would have been improved had road salt been applied to the roads when the storm started out as a rain event. The procedure, he said, will now be part of the village’s handbook.

To ensure that the village has enough salt on hand, Persons said that the village was already well on its way to securing at least 6,000 tons of salt for the coming winter, about 30% of which has already been delivered.

With two new pieces of heavy equipment on order and the new contractors and plans in place, Persons said that response time to clear the village could potentially be cut from 10 hours down to 2-4 hours depending on conditions.

Trustee Jim Racich approved of the new plans, but felt that the continued review of the storm event from February was unfair to public works crews who could not have anticipated the sudden change in weather conditions.

“I don’t think we should have to continue to apologize,” said Racich who said that all things considered, crews cleared roads in a “reasonable amount of time” and shouldn’t have to continue to rehash the event.

“It was an act of nature, said Racich, “Mother nature gave us a punch in the nose."

Contact me at brock@thetimesweekly.com or on Twitter @BrockAStein