Storm Cleanup

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

The powerful storm that ripped through the stateline last month is hitting residents and local governments right in the wallet. Signs of the July 4 storm still stand in Rockford, but most of the cleanup is done. Now a storm of a different kind is brewing for local agencies. They face deep budget deficits compounded by storm related costs that are piling up.

"There's never any extra dollars. There weren't any extra dollars and who can plan for something like this?" says Kris Cohn, Winnebago County board chair.

Storm cleanup cost Winnebago County $200,000, which was covered in the highway dept fund. But residents will pay in other ways.

"If your a person who lives on one of those rural streets that the county has jurisdiction over and you thought that maybe this year was when you'd get it seal coated, yes your going to see some differences because you won't get it this summer. It will be on the schedule for next year," says Cohn.

The storm will cost Rockford residents an extra $1.00 a month on their garbage bills for 21 months. That will help cover the city's more than $1 million cleanup, this on top of increases in water fees.

The storm put a big dent in ComEd's operating budget. Crews racked up hundreds of hours in overtime. The utility had to replace 450 poles and 265 miles in cable, but a rate freeze will protect customers until 2007.

"As a part of deregulation, there will be no change in customer rates because of the storm cost. Even though this is an odd and unusual thing to have happened there's nothing that will be charged back to our customers," says Paul Callighan, of ComEd external affairs.

Stateline leaders say they're looking for creative ways to weather the budget storm but residents will certainly have to make sacrifices in the coming months. Winnebago county board members are looking at a $4.6 million budget hole, while Rockford faces a two point five million dollar deficit. The city will likely cut jobs, but county board chair Kris Cohn says layoffs are the last resort.

While ComEd customers rates won't be affected, there is a big backlog in maintenance work.


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