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Snow Plowing Complaints Pile Up; Ald. Claims City Faces Salt Shortage

By  Mike Brockway and Ted Cox | January 9, 2014 2:46pm | Updated on January 9, 2014 5:21pm

 Residents across the city are complaining about unplowed streets in their neighborhood.
Residents Complain of Unplowed Streets
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CHICAGO — Some aldermen are charging the city has done a poor job clearing snow from side streets, with one claiming a "salt shortage" has led to "dangerous" conditions in his South Side ward.

"The accumulation of slush on our side streets is not only dangerous for my residents, but this slush is pulled out on the arterial streets which make conditions unsafe for all travelers,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said. “This is the first big snow storm of the year, and we cannot allow budget constraints to decrease the safety in my community.”

In a news release, Sawyer said he thought the "crippled" side streets in his ward would be cleared as temperatures rose on Thursday, but was "shocked" to learn of a salt shortage that allowed trucks to dump only one load of slush-melting salt onto side streets.

 A street in Hyde Park Thursday shows the effects of the recent snowy weather.
A street in Hyde Park Thursday shows the effects of the recent snowy weather.
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DNAinfo/John OBrien

A spokeswoman for the city's Department of Streets and Sanitation denied that the city was facing a salt shortage and said that as temperatures rise, the existing salt on the roadways will start working better.

"We have more than 100,000 tons of salt, and our supply is being replenished daily. We have multiple vendors and will have enough salt for the winter season," said the spokeswoman, Molly Poppe.

Poppe said "Drivers are focused on plowing the streets and are salting as needed.

"As temperatures are rising today, the salt is becoming more effective on street surfaces, and we are allowing the salt already on the street the opportunity to work," Poppe said.

Sawyer said constituents "call my office, and I am promising them that we will get their streets clear just to find out that my drivers are being turned away.

"I am responsible for the conditions in my ward, and I cannot be handicapped by closed-door policies made without consultation and applied inequitably throughout the city.”

Sawyer has asked residents with "perilous conditions" on their streets to call 311.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said his office is hearing complaints — "two to three hundred calls over the past few days."

Waguespack said he believe that city plows waited too long before starting on the side streets so by the time the trucks got off the main routes the hard-packed snow had turned to ice.

He also said that the city did a bad job of preparing for schools reopening.

"Did they do the schools when they had two days of no school? No. Now it's a problem for parents getting kids to school," Waguespack said.

Elsewhere, a spokesman for Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said "We've had a few complaints, but I wouldn't say an abundance."

"From my perspective, things seem to be under control and moving surely but slowly," said Moreno's spokesman, Matt Bailey.

Logan Square resident Mark Smithivas said the city is taking too long to get side streets cleared.

"In the past in similar situations like this they cleared the arterials first and then get to the side streets a day or two later," said Smithivas. "This year they haven't come through at all four to five days after it stopped snowing.

"I'm just wondering what's going on. Are they trying to save money?" Smithivas said.

At the University of Chicago Laboratory School in Hyde Park, a school official said there has been a problem with buses getting stuck on 59th Street near the school. At Wadsworth Elementary, a secretary said both the Ellis and 67th Street sides of the school have been plowed.

At Ray Elementary, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., slushy roads slowed the school's 3:45 dismissal Wednesday.

"In the past, they've shoveled the sidewalks at least," said Amy Repp, whose first-grader Linus attends Ray. "It hasn't been this bad; I'm really surprised."

In Lincoln Park and Old Town, many side streets remained covered in snow and slush.

Dan O'Donnell, longtime owner of Armitage Hardware, said he hadn't seen a plow go by his shop near Armitage and Bissell for days.

O'Donnell pointed to the hump of snow in the middle of Bissell carved out by passing cars as proof the street hadn't been touched.

O'Donnell said his delivery drivers have been having difficulty all over the city's side streets and that a lot of customers had been taking matters into their own hands.

As of Thursday, the little shop had sold about 40 tons of ice salt and expected a second shipment next week.

For 24-year-old Dave Orr, who moved back to Chicago this year after spending a year living in Beverly Hills, having his Mercedes get stuck for 30 minutes Wednesday and again Thursday might have been the final straw.

"Living here ain't worth it, man," Orr said while shoveling out his car on Bissell just south of Armitage.

Orr said he was considering moving out of his Lincoln Park residence and back to Los Angeles and that he wasn't surprised by conditions in the roadway.

"I haven't seen a plow go through here," he said.

Contributing: Paul Biasco, Sam Cholke, Alisa Hauser