Forest Park officials said they are pleased with the village’s response to last week’s blizzard.
Village crews reportedly worked around the clock to make sure streets and sidewalks were plowed, snow routes were obeyed and emergency services were available.
Up until 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2 – the day after the storm – the Public Works department worked non-stop, its employees alternating 12-hour shifts, spanning 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and visa versa.
Mayor Anthony Calderone even signed a declaration of disaster last week to put the village in line for FEMA funding, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian.
When the snow began to fall heavily, on the afternoon of Feb. 1, first priority was given to plowing the arterial streets, Gillian said.
But the sidewalks and side streets were also tended to in the days after the storm hit. Over the last few days, giant buckets attached to Bobcat loading vehicles were used to scoop snow from the sidewalks of main streets such as Madison, Gillian said.
“Generally speaking, by early morning [Feb. 2] all of the mains [arterial streets] were down to the pavement…and all of the alleys were done,” Gillian told the Forest Park Review last week. “By late morning [Feb. 2] our side streets were passable.”
The police department’s all-hands-on-deck approach was somewhat coincidental to
the blizzard. Several officers were attending a mandatory training program at village hall last week when the 20 inches of snow fell. If not for the classes, some of the officers would have had days off; but they were on hand to offer emergency assistance, if necessary.
Police Chief Jim Ryan said that despite the ferocity of the storm, things were relatively quiet for local law enforcement.
“We pretty much supported the snow cleaning operations,” Ryan said. “We did have
to do some snow tows.”
There were a few “storm-related arrests,” he said. In one instance, on Feb. 1, 26-year-old Oak Parker Daniel Gross was booked for resisting arrest, after becoming involved in a physical struggle with an officer who was writing him a ticket for parking on a snow route.
As the blizzard raged, the village repeatedly phoned residents and played automated messages to warn of the weather’s intensity, the strict enforcement of the snow routes – which were not entirely obeyed – and to offer general information.
Fire Chief Steve Glinke echoed Ryan’s assessment of the storm, noting that his department was adequately prepared, but that there were “no major incidents.” Glinke and Deputy Fire Chief Bob McDermott were on duty for 36 hours, and two other firefighters were added along with another ambulance.
“Operations in extreme weather don’t change drastically,” Glinke wrote in an e-mail. “What we do generally takes a little longer so the additional manpower provided us with response redundancy so as not to adversely affect our response times.”
The ambulance and the engine company did respond to several emergency calls, Glinke said.
“EMS calls tend to increase during inclement weather primarily because those with pre-existing conditions tend to experience exacerbation of their symptoms – chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc,” he added.
The mayor tipped his hat to the public works crew by announcing, in a Feb. 2 Facebook post, that he had ordered pizza for the workers, and also picked up the tab.
“Pizza’s are paid for by me personally as a simple gesture to say thank you [sic],” Calderone wrote.
“We have the best public works department and the BEST mayor!” Mike Curry, commissioner of public health and safety, wrote in response to Calderone’s post, on the social networking site.
Forest Park resident Dave King lauded the village’s response: “I think they [village] did a nice job. My sister called the public works department to thank them, and they were like: ‘Wow, thanks. Usually people call to complain.'”
However, there was also criticism. Commenting on a Review article published last week, one reader wrote the following: “Those of us south of the Ike still have unplowed sidewalks (even Circle), our alleys weren’t cleared until Friday [Feb. 4], and our streets weren’t cleared until Thursday [Feb. 3].”
There was a brief state of paralysis following last week’s blizzard, but many were
mobile by Feb. 3, two days after the storm.
The snow kept District 91 and District 209 schools closed for two days, but classes resumed last Friday.
“Let’s face it, this was a historic snowfall and I’m proud of the work that our troops put in,” Gillian said.