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This winter's snow removal plan looks a lot like last year's

Peoria_Snow.jpg

The snow removal plan for this upcoming winter resembles the COVID-19 plan adapted from last year. The Peoria Public Works Department will continue to plow 17 routes, cut from 21, with 11 fewer personnel.

Assistant Public Works Director Sie Maroon says one thing that wasn’t eliminated is the streets needing snow removal.

“Even though we went from 21 to 17 (routes), we have the same number of streets. But what we do have, and with that, is the routes are larger now,” Maroon said to council members on Tuesday. “So it takes longer per route to get completed… for a truck driver to complete the route. So that is why we have an increase in the 2 to 6 inches (removal timeframe) and in the 6 inches or more.”

The current removal and timing for operations is 36 hours for snowfall between 2 and 6 inches. Once the snow accumulates more than 6 inches, Public Works suggests the timing will increase to 48 hours to complete removal.

Maroon hopes potential route and personnel restoration next year will bring those hours down to 24 and 36 hours, respectively.

At-Large Councilmember Beth Jensen during the meeting sought information on how much it would cost to restore the routes and personnel this year. Although, as Maroon and City Manager Patrick Urich said, the timeline is too short to meet.

Maroon says hiring additional personnel and reworking routes for this year would be a mountain too high to climb.

“I think there is the staffing piece, but also collective bargaining issues - these routes have been bid,” Urich told council members. “There are other issues to make this more complex than just simply saying, ‘That if we had more resources we can have more staff immediately to go forward.’”

Maroon said the process starts with primary focused streets, totaling 158 miles, followed by residential streets, totaling 321 miles, and finally alleys, which total 80 miles.

Maroon said the common perception of residents communicating with him is their streets are plowed last. Yet Maroon explains there is a rotational A-B-C approach with each new storm that will change the process to B-C-A then to a C-A-B route and finally back around to the beginning.

“We are always making sure that, and we do track this, no one is ever first every time or last every time,” Maroon said to council members. “Again, I realize people don’t know where they are at on the route — and a phone call ... that could be explained.”

Before and during snow storms residents are reminded to remove vehicles in areas designated with a snow route no parking sign. Maroon asks residents to not park in the street again until after the 48 hours, which starts once snowfall stops. The parking enforcement will initiate once 2 inches is predicted to fall.

Resident and business responsibilities

Fines start at $50. After seven days of non-compliance rises to $75, and after 30 days it's $100. Tickets can be reissued after every 24 hours. That is not all for fines, as Maroon noted residents and businesses have a legal responsibility to clear snow on sidewalks adjacent to their property.

The timeline for sidewalk snow removal for 6 inches is 24 hours and additional snow accumulation over 6 inches enhances the timeline up to 36 hours. Sidewalks that are not compliant and are less than 200 feet will see fines of $50 and above 200 feet will mean $100 fines for noncompliance.

If the city has to come out to clear a sidewalk, the owner will cover the fee for removal.

Maroon points out there are numerous ways to getting in touch to avoid penalties and answer concerns for snow removal.

On top of media releases and social media notifications the city is using its official site peoriagov.org to allow eAlerts sent directly to resident and business emails.

The main line to reach Public Works during snow storms is (309) 494-8800 as well as an automated hotline (309) 494-8830, which will detail the current removal plan for each particular storm. In the occurrence of heavy snowfall Public Works will utilize a Snow Call Center.

“That’s a center for when there are extremely large snows and the phones are ringing off the hook [and] emails are coming in hot and heavy,” Maroon said to council members. “We actually opened a snow call center at Dries Lane and it’s basically a command center."

During the meeting, Maroon gave a brief summarization of the equipment in city hands available for snow removal. There are one-ton, seven-ton and 14-ton snowplow trucks for different environments.

There are also wing plows, which are seven-ton trucks equipped with plows on both sides. Maroon saying it almost creates two separate trucks in its efficiency.

There is an industrial snow blower made to open drift-closed roads and can fill a tractor-trailer in 30 seconds, according to Powers.

Peoria has an in-house brine system costing 10 cents per gallon.

“There are a couple smaller municipalities that are not equipped to carry brine and (are) inquiring now about purchasing brine from us,” Maroon said.

Other council business

The special meeting finished under three and a half hours after muddled debate on short-term rental compliance procedures, as well as Councilmember Zach Oyler’s update on his legal inquiry into last week’s motion restoring a fire engine.

A 90-day moratorium on enforcing STR license compliance passed 7-3 with At-Large Councilmember Jensen, First District Councilmember Denise Jackson and Second District Councilmember Chuck Grayeb voting against it.

Some of the council members were concerned STR owners were ignoring city requests. Community Development Director Joe Dulin said 17 properties on the list provided to council were cited for operating without a special use license, and he estimates about 3-4 STR owners reached out to city officials.

Mayor Rita Ali asked Dulin at the beginning of discussion what the STR moratorium passage would mean going forward.

“Mayor, should this motion pass all of these citations - I also want to point out that (they) have a pending hearing, they have not gone before a hearing officer,” Dulin said. “So none of them have been found guilty operating a short term rental or any fines have been placed yet. That’s ultimately the decision of the hearing officer after both sides do their case. If this would pass tonight all of those cases would be continued for 90 days pending compliance."

"As long as they come into compliance and don’t operate illegally, those citations would be voided and dismissed … from my understanding of the amendment Councilman Oyler made.”

Dulin mentioned the 90 days would allow city staff to have documented lists of all STR operations, while giving a hypothetical example of finding an additional 30 to 40 STRs without license or a special use license.

Corporation Counsel Chrissie Kapustka, answering Ali, said there were two hearings scheduled for Tuesday, but they were delayed until Dec. 28. Other STR citations will be heard on Nov. 16, later this month.

“I just want to take a moment to thank Director Dulin for polishing up this and trying to come up with what would be a solid process at the end of this discussion - whereby we would notify individuals regarding coming into compliance before we would fine them,” Oyler said during the discussion.

Grayeb asked Dulin if not all of the STR owners were properly notified.

“A large majority of the ones on the list we issued citations hoping to get compliance with the understanding if they came in and discussed it with us that’s when it would have went to the hearing and presented that," Dulin said to Grayeb. “There are a couple of addresses on the list that did get noticed previously before citations were issued.”

Jensen, wanting clarification, asked Dulin how many were seeking compliance from the list given to them. Dulin estimated earlier three to four owners contacted city officials to comply, but noted additional calls coming in. Dulin said there were still owners who have not contacted the city.

Grayeb gave time over for residents in District 2 on a W. Moss Avenue STR to detail how a resident living there for over 54 years is having an issue. The resident shares a driveway with an STR, and complaints were made of cars blocking her drive. Councilmember Jensen also spoke on personally seeing around 9 young adults walking out of the property Monday morning - as well as a few other occasions but no times were stated.

Councilmember Oyler gave time over to the owners of the W. Moss Avenue property who said they were notified by Airbnb on Oct. 12 and later on that day went to city hall to obtain compliance. According to the owners they received a fine with the date stating Oct. 13 — a day after his meeting — with the letter containing addresses he gave city staff. They say their two other STRs were operating over a year ago, so they weren’t aware of any changes.

According to Dulin, answering a question for Grayeb, it was after police enforcement over the blocking of the drive and additional contact with the owner did the property stop operating as a STR.

Third District Councilmember Timothy Riggenbach gave his time over to a resident who told council members he is currently trying to sell a house by using it as an STR, but received two fines — the second one the day of his hearing, which would have been today but was delayed to late December by city staff.

The end of the moratorium would be Feb. 1, 2022.

Budget update

The budget will have another special meeting on Nov. 16. Nine motions were brought up and amended to the budget.

Councilmember Oyler says after seeking outside legal advice the vote last council meeting was improper - seeking a reconsideration and ratification vote from the prevailing side.

At-Large Councilmember John Kelly said the discussion process has violated their own council procedures.

Councilmember Ruckriegel agreed that the vote should never have happened, but would rather remove the vote as the city manager already has the power to reinstate the engine.

Nothing was decided on for this particular issue this meeting.

The council received and filed the amended budget.

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Corrected: November 4, 2021 at 8:55 AM CDT
This story was updated to indicate the snow removal update came from Assistant Public Works Director Sie Maroon, not Director of Public Works Rick Powers.