From the Midwest to New England, there has been a shortage of road salt this winter. Snowfalls in the Chicago area have reached a 30-year high-not since 1979 have winter snowfall totals reached 50 inches. With our 35th measurable snowstorm of the winter upon us, the need for salt throughout the region reached a critical level.
Salt is normally delivered by barge up the Mississippi River, and due in part to the weather, deliveries have slowed as the season has extended. While local stores may have salt because they are able to pick it up from a local supplier in a truck, our village doesn’t have that choice. Unlike other neighboring communities, Oak Park does have some salt, although not in the quantity we’d like. With increased demand for salt, the cost has almost doubled from $65 a ton to nearly $150 a ton-so we commend village staff for having the foresight to conserve our supply where appropriate and seek out suppliers who are well below market rates.
Some have suggested that our lack of salt resources is in some way tied to the belt-tightening that the village went through during the last budget approval cycle-which isn’t the case. Others have also stated that it must be a choice between salt and gateway signs on Harrison Street or modest incentives to lure Circle Theatre to Harrison Street. The difference is apples and oranges-or salt and pepper if you prefer.
In 2006, under the previous village board, the Harrison Street Business Association and neighborhood supporters approached the village seeking assistance for its business district. Vacancies were too high in the fledgling arts district and the small business owners on Harrison, who add so much character, were distraught. They solicited financial assistance from the village, and the board rallied to the call. A $2.5-million commitment for infrastructure improvements and catalyst projects, such as the Circle Theatre plans, were approved to assist the district in an effort to eliminate vacancies, clearly identify the area as an arts district, and increase foot traffic to support the district.
Since then, the following has occurred: the district has added Trattoria 225-I think we can all agree that this was certainly a boon to the neighborhood! Circle Theatre has entered into discussions with the village to relocate to Harrison Street; Prodigy Art Glass Studio and Briejo Restaurant will soon open; and we believe there is even more to come as the confidence level on Harrison Street has never been higher.
So it’s not really a choice between buying salt and supporting our arts district. It’s a calculated and prudent investment in Harrison Street that will pay dividends well into the future. Let’s get behind it!