ROCHELLE — For most of us, this has been a good winter. For the governmental agencies who have to keep the roads safe, it’s been an even better one.
“This is the fourth year I’ve been here, and it’s been the easiest by far,” Rochelle Street Superintendent Tim Isley said. “December started out rough, but it’s been pretty good since.”
Jeremy Ciesiel, Ogle County Highway Department engineer, agrees. “It’s been a good winter,” he said. “Since Christmas, we’ve been abnormally snow-free.”
Although neither man knows exactly how much snow this area has gotten this winter, both said their departments have benefitted greatly from the lack of it.
Since his crews haven’t had to spend as much time as normal plowing and salting roads, Ciesiel said they’ve been able to attend to other duties, such as tree and brush trimming, something that needs to be done, but they usually fall behind on this time of year. In driving around the area, he said he has noticed neighboring counties doing the same thing.
“This gives us a chance to catch up,” Isley said of his department.
Another benefit is more obvious, meaning financial.
With less demand for plowing and salting the roads, Cieseil said he has been able to keep his crews to their scheduled 40-hour work weeks and not have to pay overtime. They’ve also been able to save on how little salt they have had to used.
Ciesiel figures the county may have saved as much as $90,000 on salt. That, of course, could change depending on what happens the next few weeks.
In Rochelle, Isley said his department has used “about half as much salt as we do in a normal year.”
That’s about 900 tons of salt compared to the 1,800 tons they used during the winter of 2014, which he said was an extra difficult winter.
Isley said his department has only purchased about 80 percent of the salt they are contracted to buy every winter. (They can buy up to 120 percent during a particularly harsh winter when demand for it is obviously higher.) The salt that isn’t used will be stored in containers until next winter. The same is true for the county.
The Rochelle Street Department has eight trucks and eight full-time employees while the county has 11 trucks, three graders and 14 employees. Ciesiel said the Illinois Department of Transportation is responsible for all state highways while the county maintains county roads. In this area, that includes Flagg and Center roads, as well as part of Bethel and Church roads.