2020-2021 Pilot Sidewalk Snow Removal Program
Following discussion with the Village Board during Committee of the Whole meetings in July and August, the Public Works Department is moving forward with a modified Sidewalk Snow Removal Program for the 2020-2021 winter season. There are currently 60 miles of residential sidewalk in the Village. Public Works has provided sidewalk snow removal services for many years as a part of the Department’s Snow and Ice Control Operations Program. Under that plan, sidewalk snow removal equipment is dispatched, following snowfall events of 2 inches or more, after all Village streets are cleared and sidewalks in the downtown business district are passable. This is typically 24 to 48 hours after the snowfall event.
The 2020 modified Sidewalk Snow Removal Program will reduce the total mileage of sidewalks cleared by approximately 50%. While not every sidewalk on each side of a street would be plowed, the intent with this pilot program will be to clear a pathway from every corner of the Village to the downtown and to each of the schools. The sidewalks on all of the major collector streets would continue to be cleared, and most pedestrians would only walk a couple of blocks to reach a cleared path. The sidewalk snow removal routes in the modified plan were partly based on the suggested school and park walking routes identified in the 2018 Active Transportation Plan. Village staff has developed the final modified sidewalk snow removal routes for the 2020-2021 winter season, as show below and here.
Sidewalk snow removal is an important service to continue to provide, especially for the more traveled pedestrian routes in the Village. However, Public Works has historically faced challenges in having the resources (labor and equipment) to perform this service effectively and efficiently. The Department regularly hears concerns from residents (phone, email, and community surveys) about the quality of the sidewalk snow removal service. Unlike traditional hand shoveling or using a snow blower, the Village’s sidewalk snow removal equipment often leaves behind a layer of snow or slush, which typically turns to ice. This results in many residents choosing to walk in streets, next to Village cleared sidewalks. Other complaints received report damage to parkway grass and private landscaping and irrigation systems adjacent to sidewalks. In addition, the sidewalk snow removal equipment is very specialized and is not used for much of the year. The current fleet of equipment (three tractors) is nearing the end of its useful life and will need to be replaced over the next few years. The financial impact of COVID-19 on the Village’s budget this year and next is not fully known at this time, and as a result the investment in any and all capital equipment replacement is being carefully reviewed.
While the Village takes great pride and excels in providing service at a high level in most areas, we recognize that sidewalk snow removal may not fall into this category. The intent of reducing the scope of the current program is to improve the efficiency and quality of the priority sidewalks being plowed. The Village will be evaluating the effectiveness of this pilot program at the end of the winter season, and resident input will be valuable in that evaluation. In the meantime, if your sidewalk is not included in the modified route plan for this coming winter the Village encourages you to make arrangements for removing snow from the public sidewalk adjacent to your property while clearing your driveways and private walkways.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Village initiating this change? This program has been spotlighted as one that is not performed as well as other Village services, having been spotlighted in both the 2015 and 2019 Community Surveys as having one of the lowest satisfaction ratings among Village services. To rectify this, the Village would need to make 1) significant investments in new equipment and 2) potentially amend our staffing model to accommodate a higher priority. Currently, sidewalks are cleared after the roadways and other areas, and is the last step in the Village’s snow removal plan. Given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Village’s finances, staff recommended a one-year pilot program to analyze a reduced scope of services, noting that the significant costs that might be necessary are not feasible given other budget restrictions. Following this upcoming winter season, the Village Board and staff will analyze the results and make decisions about necessary investments in this program for future years.
I read the analysis and it seems like this pilot program will only save $11,000. Why reduce the service then? Through a cost analysis, staff determined that providing the current level of service for sidewalk snow removal throughout the Village costs approximately $33,000 annually, including an annualized cost for personnel and capital equipment. If the 2020 Pilot Sidewalk Removal Program was implemented, it is estimated that the cost would reduce to approximately $22,000, resulting in a modest savings of $11,000 per year. Note that for this cost analysis, the capital equipment and staffing costs beyond existing levels was spread out over a ten-year period to produce an annualized cost. However, the savings in modifying the scale of the program is not solely the annualized cost but is driven by the capital equipment replacement costs in future years. The sidewalk snow removal equipment costs over the next few years could be over $300,000 to continue the current level of service. This is a significant capital investment and given, the financial uncertainty with budget revenues in 2020 and beyond as a result of the pandemic, the Village is evaluating the value that this investment into this program brings to the community. By reducing the scope and prioritizing fewer sidewalks, the Village expects to be able to respond to clear these sidewalks more efficiently and effectively.
What if the sidewalk in front of my house is not a part of the priority routes? The Village would encourage all residents to partner with the Village’s efforts by removing the snow from the public sidewalk in front of your house when clearing your driveway or private walkways or make arrangements with your private snow removal contractor to add this work to their service.
What happens if I can’t shovel my sidewalk? Currently, there is no Village ordinance that will require you to clear the public sidewalk in front of your property. However, residents are encouraged to work together with their neighbors to assist those who are not physically able or may not have access to a private snow removal contractor.
Why is the Village reducing the Sidewalk Snow Removal Program during the pandemic, when everyone is walking more? The COVID-19 pandemic has created a period of financial uncertainty for the Village while coinciding with the need to make a significant capital investment in equipment in order to continue the Village Sidewalk Snow Removal Program. Nonetheless, the modified 2020 Sidewalk Snow Removal Program will still clear many of the public sidewalks in the Village and provide an accessible pathway from every corner of the Village to the rest of the community, including the downtown, schools and the parks. As noted previously, most residents will only have to walk a block or two at most to reach a Village cleared sidewalk.
How does this change in service compare to surrounding communities? Sidewalk snow removal varies from one community to the next. The Village of Highland Park only clears public sidewalks in residential areas after a four-inch snowfall, with residents responsible for clearing sidewalks for snowfall events under four-inches. The Village of Northbrook only clears a select number of sidewalks, mainly in commercial areas. In most suburban communities, including the Village of Glenview, residents are responsible for clearing snow from the public sidewalks in front of their houses.
How will I go for a walk in the winter months if the public sidewalks are not cleared? The 2020 Sidewalk Snow Removal Program will still clear many of the public sidewalks in the Village and provide an accessible pathway from every corner of the Village to the rest of the community, including the downtown, schools and the parks. Most residents will only have to walk a block or two at most to reach a Village cleared sidewalk.
Is this change in the program permanent? No, the modified 2020 Sidewalk Snow Removal Program is a pilot program, and changes can be made to the priority routes if needed. Furthermore, the Village is not removing any equipment from its fleet and can revert to its previous level of sidewalk snow removal service if the Village Board chooses that course of action. The Village Board and staff will review and evaluate the pilot program in the spring of 2021.
Please feel free to contact Public Works General Superintendent, Don Kirk, at (847) 461-1154 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.