First reported 5/20/2010 3:05 p.m.

Work that Nicor Gas is doing throughout Oak Park to upgrade gas mains is raising concerns about the tidiness and extent of the digs.

Trustee Ray Johnson expressed his frustrations at the end of the village board meeting last week. Johnson urged village hall to verify whether Nicor is following Oak Park’s rules while doing its work.

“They’re digging really close to the trees, and it seems to be a really aggressive dig, where there’s a lot of remnants of tree roots,” Johnson said in a phone interview a few days after the meeting. “I frankly don’t have a whole lot of faith in our utility companies, and I started wondering whether we’re on top of this.”

Public Works Director John Wielebnicki said the village is conscious of Nicor’s project and has been inspecting the results on a daily basis. According to Wielebnicki, Public Works has asked Nicor to trim roots if they’re in the way before scooping up the soil, “as opposed to digging and pulling the roots and stretching and tearing them,” he said. “It’s a less intrusive means when you’re digging around the tree, and does less damage.”

Nicor is working to replace low-pressure, cast-iron gas mains with high-pressure plastic ones, said Richard Caragol, a spokesman for the company. With that, they’re also changing the gas service lines that run from the street or parkway to people’s homes. In addition, Nicor will be moving indoor gas meters outside in homes across Oak Park.

The work started in April in several areas, and they hope to finish by the end of July.

Johnson has also raised concerns about how holes in streets were patched, with the results looking more like speed bumps than smooth asphalt. Wielebnicki said he was unaware of that being a problem.

Caragol said it’s possible that some of the patched holes were covered in a way that would allow Nicor to return and do further work.

Caragol said that warmer temperatures can sometimes cause patched holes to bubble up. He was unaware of any damage the company has done to trees, but gave Nicor’s 800 number for residents to file complaints.

John Gross, 60, of the 100 block of S. Lombard is concerned about the gas main being replaced on his street. He hopes the company finishes soon, as there’s what he calls a huge pile of debris and utility vehicles parked in the middle of the cul-de-sac in front of his home.

“It’s highly disruptive,” Gross said last week.

If you have a complaint about Nicor’s work

Call 1-888-642-6748, which translates from 888-Nicor-4-U.
A company spokesman said a crew will be sent to check out your complaint.

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