The first big snowfall of the season has dropped, plus several ice storms, but snow and ice aren’t melting on the new $5 million Marion Street. There’s a simple reason and a familiar “villain.” Commonwealth Edison has yet to hook up the heated coils beneath the blue stone sidewalks.

Joe Trost, ComEd spokesman, said the company was expecting to connect the electricity as soon as the village completes some on-site “obligations” and “inspections.”

“It could be a couple days,” Trost said. “Our goal is to make sure that power is turned on as quickly and safely as possible.”

To keep from scratching the pavement, public works sent a worker with an electric sweeping machine to clear the snow last Wednesday. Downtown Oak Park typically pays for snow removal on Marion, but anticipating the heated sidewalks being in place, the organization didn’t sign a snow removal contract for that block this year.

“I’m not frustrated,” DTOP Executive Director Pat Zubak said Wednesday. “It would be nice if they were heated. Everybody’s anxious to see how they work.”

When freezing rain hit over the weekend, the village sprinkled the sidewalks with sand to create friction and heat. Salt would fade the color of the blue stone sidewalks, Village Engineer Jim Budrick said.

Currently, the path in front of Marion shops is clear. However, the heated coils under the sidewalks should melt snow from the storefronts all the way to the curb.

Right now there’s a generator hooked up to the heated coils on Westgate to try and melt some of the ice. The north sidewalk is finished on Westgate, but the south portion is still incomplete. The village hopes to finish Westgate this week, but weather may delay its completion, Budrick said.

As of late Monday, the village was linking coils on Marion to a rented generator. Depending on which is quicker, either workers will connect the sidewalks to a “step-up” transformer to provide the right amount of juice or dig up 150 feet of an east alley to upgrade the existing transformers, Budrick said.

President David Pope and Budrick met with the ComEd officials about Marion on Friday to resolve the situation. Pope said the electric company provided a lower amount of power (208 volts) than required to heat the sidewalks (480), which Budrick attributed to a “miscommunication.”

ComEd was supposed to connect the power by the end of October. At first, the company promised to have work done by January, Pope said. But after being pressured, they agreed to have the sidewalks hooked up within 10 days of last Friday’s meeting

“ComEd has indicated that they regret the mistake and has indicated a strong commitment to correcting this on an expedited schedule,” Pope said.

Now, because of imposing weather conditions, the village is under added pressure to get the sidewalks warming.

“We know how critical it is in that area because everyone was expecting to have that ice and snow melted automatically,” Budrick said.  

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