Geneva only Kane municipality to win Snowfighting Award

GENEVA – Geneva was recognized with a 2013 Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Award from the Salt Institute for excellence in environmental consciousness and effective management in the storage of winter road salt, officials said.

Geneva was the only Kane municipality to receive the award, one of 10 in Illinois, and one of 90 in the U.S. and Canada, according to a list provided by the Salt Institute. The institute is a nonprofit trade association dedicated to advocating the benefits of salt.

Geneva Streets Superintendent Chris Bong said he applied for the award a year ago and a representative from the Salt Institute came out during the summer to inspect their operation.

"They look at your plan and see what it looks like, your facilities, and they send the awards out during the winter," Bong said.

The institute uses a checklist to grade safety and service, equipment, materials usage, snow plowing performance, tactical operations before and during a storm, storage and safety, and environmental measures.

"Now it recognizes your plan and your ability to use and store salt responsibly," he said. "Prioritizing roads is one of the main things."

When the salt shortage became apparent earlier this year, Bong mixed a third of the street spread with sand, stretching out the city's salt supply. The city also limits its salt use to the main roads, the snow routes, hills, around schools and stop sign intersections, Bong said.

"We do not do end-to-end on residential streets," Bong said. "An ice storm is the only time we salt end-to-end."

An average winter has 22 inches of snow, Bong said, but the current season has dumped 47 inches, with more forecast by this weekend.

"In a normal winter, we use 2,000 tons of salt. This year so far, we have used 3,000 tons," Bong said.

The snow put the city's prioritization plan to the test this winter, he said.

"FaceBook and Twitter had positive feedback like crazy," Bong said. "That's kind of rare in this business. Usually you get more complaints than compliments."