Mayor Daley on Tuesday swept aside aldermanic complaints about his cost-cutting plan to switch street sweeping from a ward-by-ward to a grid system and reduce the number of sweepers by 34 percent.

“If this side of the street is one ward and the other side [is another ward], we can only clean one side one day and the other [side] the other day. So, you clean both at the same time,” Daley said.

“It’s efficiency and saving money. If I can only go up to Ohio Street and not cross, people say, `Why can’t you cross? Well, that’s a different ward.’ It’s a grid system. … Instead of stopping at one block, you keep going another block or two blocks or three blocks. … It’s like a library. A library doesn’t serve one [ward]. It serves the whole community.”

Aldermen don’t see it that way. To them, it’s a dramatic reduction in a service their constituents hold dear — and a loss of control for aldermen who’ll get the blame if a fall-off leaves their streets filthy.

Under the current system, there is one sweeper assigned to each of the 50 wards, no matter how large the geographic area. Under a grid-system, the city would have 33 sweepers each assigned to cover a same-sized chunk of the city.

“It is taking control away from me. … I want to keep control of that sweeper. I want to be able to keep control of the criticism that may come to me when they say that the streets are not clean,” said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th).

“We have a lot of leaves. We have a lot of debris that has blown out of a garbage can. … As I’m driving down the street and I see [trash] that needs to be taken care of, I can get on the phone and say, ‘Send a sweeper to this location.’ Under this proposal, we won’t have that luxury.”

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) is equally concerned.

“Sometimes you have a certain area that’s a lot dirtier than other areas. So, you ask the street sweeper to go back a couple times. Sometimes, you don’t have all the cars off that street and you send your guy out there to ring doorbells and get everybody off the street so the street sweeper can go back. Once they start on that grid system, you’re never gonna have control over it anymore,” Mell said.

Ald. Ed Smith (28th) added, “If you decrease the number of sweepers, you’re gonna have some problems with trying to get everything done, especially with us who’ve got these huge wards.”

Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) was the only alderman to endorse the change. In fact, he’s been lobbying Streets and Sanitation for years to switch to a grid system for both street sweeping and garbage collection.

“Every time we change the ward [boundaries], we change the system on how garbage is picked up and how streets [are swept]. It only makes sense to go to a grid,” Fioretti said.

“They’re gonna make it uniform. We’re gonna run this city like a business. It needs to be clean all across the city — not just certain sections.”

Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne briefed aldermen on the controversial change earlier this week. It is the latest in a series of steps he has taken to control costs in the city’s third-largest department.

Streets and San spokesman Matt Smith said the switch to a grid system will pave the way for street sweeping services to be delivered “on a more equitable basis.” And it will free up 17 drivers for refuse collection, the department’s “most critical service,” he said.

“These extra resources are helpful because there are times when workers with chronic absenteeism don’t show up for work and that places an added burden on our operations,” Smith said, noting that Byrne’s system of progressive discipline against chronic absentees is beginning to pay off.

Even with 17 fewer sweepers, 17 fewer drivers and 17 fewer laborers, Smith said the impact will be negligible.

“When we’re finished with a typical day, we will have swept 198 miles rather than 200. That change is minimal and the use of a grid allows us to deliver our sweeping services on a more equitable basis,” he said.

“So the move allows us to strengthen our most critical service area while still providing satisfactory … sweeping to all of our neighborhoods.”