The governments of Champaign and Urbana — and by extension, taxpayers — had to dig deep for overtime for city workers to clear up storm damage after a particularly rough-and-tumble six-week run.
It’s been an especially bad stretch for Champaign.
Champaign’s administrative services manager, Kris Koester, said he didn’t have an overtime breakdown yet, but it could be large.
“The storms are happening either at night or on weekends, so there’s the additional costs,” Koester said.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, tornadoes touched down in both Champaign and Urbana, with winds reaching 75 to 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Also, Koester said, “these pop-up storms come and take down mature trees.”
He estimated there have been three to five pop-up storms in the last six weeks.
“That would put our emergency overtime for May 26 to June 30 just under $29,000, not including work done on regular time during regular hours, doing activities as a result of the storm,” he said.
Debris pickup for the May storms lasted 10 days.
In Urbana, public facilities manager Vince Gustafson said he did not have a final figure yet for six public works employees who “worked around the clock” after high winds took trees down last weekend.
He said the city had five staffers and a supervisor working in the midst of storm late Sunday afternoon.
“We have an on-call emergency supervisor to supervise clearing the roads; in this case, the high winds were isolated,” he said.
Gustafson said city arbor crews were still working throughout the week.
It was a good opportunity for commercial tree services that were cutting trees and large branches on private land.
Marty Downing of Downing’s Tree Service in Champaign said he’s not sure when the work will be done.
“In fact, we’re still doing it and still doing estimates,” Downing said. “There’s probably a couple more days of work yet.”
May was particularly bad.
On May 23, storms cut power to nearly 7,300 Ameren customers in Champaign and nearby counties. In the May 26 event, there was damage in much of the west side of Champaign.
Last Sunday, some of the most affected areas were Randolph and Washington streets, Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue, the 1000 block of West University Avenue and the 600 block of Park Lane Drive, Koester said.
There were other costs associated with recent storms.
“The limbs from these last couple of storms are brought to public works,” Koester said. “A contractor with a tub grinder will be on-site to grind all of the logs and brush and haul it away. For the May 26 event, the city did pick up brush and debris from private trees. This cost will be under $10,000 for disposal.”
In rural areas, there are fewer resources for handling the storm damage.
In Champaign Township, clerk Jim Green said residents can use a drop-off site to bring trees and branches to an area near the headquarters at 3900 Kearns Drive, C.
“We take it out to the Landscape Recycling Center in Urbana,” he said.
Champaign and Urbana have a cooperative agreement to use the recycling center, but the township is not part of the agreement, so it has paid several thousand dollars recently to use the service.