Snow removal stickers will be necessary for snow storms like this.

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Grappling with an ominous budget crisis and a colossal snow removal bill following the early February blizzard, Evanston City Council approved a controversial new program that will require residents who wish to have snow removed from in front of their homes to purchase “Snow Removal Stickers.” The program, modeled on the highly successful yard waste sticker program that came in roughly $1 million over budget last year, will go into effect when the first snows fall in late autumn or early winter 2011.

Council passed the measure during a contentious April 1 special City Council meeting on the budget. Concerns about budget shortfall dominated, causing newly appointed Snow Czar Pearl de Blanc to say, “This is an opportunity for the City to monetize a critical citizen safety service. With this program, we can climb ever closer to solvency.”

Under the program as currently structured, citizens will rent orange traffic cones from the City and affix daily snow removal stickers to those cones by 6:45 a.m. the morning before, during or after a snowfall. Stickers will be $2.25 per day. City snow plows will then remove snow from in front of any address displaying a sticker. “Our plows can raise or lower blades easily, allowing us to skip homes without stickers,” said Ms. de Blanc. “We can even narrow the blade to get only one side of the street.”

Citizens may purchase, at an additional $2 fee, a driveway clearance sticker which will direct snow plows to avoid piling snow in front of a citizen’s driveway while clearing the rest of the street. “We are offering a wide range of snow removal services. Citizens are afforded the opportunity of selecting the service that best fits within their budget,” said Ms. De Blanc.

Concerns over particularly heavy snowfall prompted an additional option crafted during Monday’s meeting. Alfred Montoya, during citizen comment, said, “What of this last blizzard? Two feet of snow will completely cover a 22-inch orange safety cone.” Ms. De Blanc appeared not to have considered this possibility, but then inspiration struck.

“The City will also offer mylar balloons that can be affixed to the cones. Stickers can be displayed on the balloon surface, and an adjustable cord will allow citizens to change the height of the display,” announced Ms. De Blanc. The balloons can be purchased with stickers already attached, she added, increasing the price of the sticker by a mere $1.75.

Asked about neighbor-to-neighbor squabbles that could result if everyone on a street purchased a sticker except one holdout on the corner, Ms. De Blanc asked for and received guidance from Council. Proposals included a possible “street sticker,” a program under which an entire block could band together and insure that the whole street was plowed. The convenience afforded would of course allow the City to command a slightly higher fee than individual stickers. “We learned our lesson from the yard waste sticker vs. cart process,” she said.

Council also recommended a campaign within elementary schools to design the stickers themselves. “This is another opportunity to bring the community together through citizen involvement as we are raising all important funds,” said Ms. de Blanc. The campaign begins immediately – April 1, 2011.