Removing Snow From City Streets

It may have come as some surprise to readers that a city the size of Wheeling has just one backhoe with a bucket capable of removing snow from streets. But, as Public Works Director Russell Jebbia told our reporter last week, that is the situation.

After a reader asked why snow was being allowed to pile up beside streets in the business district, making it difficult to park in some places or to open a car door adjacent to the sidewalk in others, our reporter asked Jebbia about the problem. He responded that the city had just one operational backhoe. It had to be used during most of the recent spate of snowy weather to load salt and cinders on city dump trucks.

Once the need to treat streets abated, the backhoe was used to clear snow and ice from curb areas.

Often in prior years, three or four backhoes were available, Jebbia added. And, at the beginning of winter, two were in operation — but a fire in one put it out of service.

Jebbia added that City Council is expected to clear the way to purchase another backhoe. Approval could come during council’s Feb. 2 meeting.

Will it snow between now and then? Who knows? But if it does, city crews once again will be limited in what they can do about snow piling up along our streets.

City officials should do all in their power to expedite the process of buying another backhoe. In the meantime, they may want to consider renting one if it snows during the next few weeks. It does seem a bit odd that owners of downtown businesses are told they have to clear their sidewalks or pay the city to do so — but the municipality itself is unable to provide snow removal service residents have a right to expect.