Village of Union Grove officials recently reviewed protocol for clearing streets of snow after recent storms have spurred complaints. (File photo)

Village officials explore ways to expedite task

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Should overtime be tapped to expedite snow plowing? What areas of Union Grove should receive top priority after a high-accumulating storm? These were among the questions a village committee hashed over at a recent meeting.

After receiving a range of complaints and concerns from residents and businesses after recent voluminous storms, Union Grove officials decided to hold a special meeting of the Water, Wastewater, Storm Water and Streets Committee on Feb. 8 and discuss protocol within the public works department.

One issue discussed was the general timeframe for snowplow operations after a storm. In general, public works crewmembers have opted to remove snow in the overnight hours.

Public Works Director Rick Piette said there are benefits to relegating the task to late night. Snow removal can be accomplished with more ease, he said, when cars are not parked on streets and vehicular traffic is next to none.

But those questions regarding overnight plows led to questions of daytime operations within the department and the prospect of using overtime to make sure tasks not related to snow cleanup are tackled.

For robust snowfalls, Piette said, the full cost of comprehensively clearing public roads, sidewalks and other major areas of the community could hover around $10,000 to $15,000, factoring in such incidentals as fuel and labor.

While overtime is used periodically within the public works department, particularly in emergency situations, its regular use could put a strain on the municipal budget in its current form, officials said.

“As far as hauling, I don’t know why we would ever use overtime,” said Trustee Christopher Gallagher, who chairs the committee. “It sounds like we can’t justifiably do overtime because it would destroy our budget.”

But Trustee Peter Hansen maintained a different perspective on funding snow removal operations.

“I think it should be done at night,” Hansen said. “It can be done faster and safer. I think you need to redo the budget.”

From his vantage point, Piette said overtime is not necessarily the driver of the challenges within his department. Determining when the task should be completed, he said, is the looming question, particularly when multiple snowfalls occur as they have in late January and early February.

“It’s not an overtime problem,” Piette said. “It’s more about timing. Right now, we have snow every couple of days.”

Piette also dug deeper into protocol within his department and the various decisions that need to be made on a daily basis, alongside snow cleanup. Early this month, for example, there were three water main breaks, which required a steady stream of resources toward mitigating that particular issue.

Trustee Jan Winget said she believes Piette needs the authority and flexibility to make judgment calls on how and where resources need to be allocated — particularly as unforeseen events crop up.

“There are things we have to do first,” Winget said. “They’re all safety issues. Part of Rick’s job is to decide what needs to be done when it needs to be done.”