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IPL calls in extra help to inspect downtown manholes before Final Four

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 23, 2015)-- Out-of-state utility workers are in Indianapolis, inspecting manhole covers for Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) downtown, ahead of the Final Four. Last week, two explosive incidents shook up residents downtown and left the utility company trying to explain what happened.

On Monday night, a transformer blew below Mass Ave and sent flames and smoke shooting through a grate. Then Thursday, cables short circuited at North and Capitol and sent multiple manhole covers flying.

Friday, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission opened an investigation into IPL and their continued downtown issues.

The utility still isn't saying how much damage was done, but they'll also be paying out-of-state workers to help check every manhole cover downtown. There are 1,260 of them.

"The plan a few weeks ago wasn't to a sweep of the downtown area, but we are committed to safety," said Brandi Davis-Handy, with IPL.

The 50 workers arrived on Monday. They went through training sessions and then hit the streets, splitting up into 20 teams. The help came from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Dayton.

"We know that Final Four weekend is a big deal here in Indianapolis, and we want to make sure not only those who live in the downtown area feel comfortable coming downtown but so do the visitors," Davis-Handy said.

She said inspections before big events are typically smaller and happen in the area of the event, like Lucas Oil Stadium. IPL had 200 to 300 manholes in the area scheduled for inspection ahead of the tournament.

"In light of what happened last week, we've decided to make sure all manholes within our downtown network are inspected," she said.

"We work with them closely on a lot of events just to make sure that the area, not just manholes, but everything is protected," said Gary Coons, Homeland Security Chief.

At North and Capitol, the underground work continued. Monday, IPL replaced a transformer below ground.

Deering Cleaners is on generator power and said they haven't had any issues since the explosion outside their door, except utility trucks blocking all their parking.

"We have no parking, so we're all just feeding meters at this point and time," said Ashley Moore, with Deering Cleaners.

So as the Circle City preps for its time to shine, IPL maintains safety is a priority. Though after Thursday's explosion, executives then couldn't give their word it wouldn't happen again.

"I can't guarantee again, because the fact is, the laws of physics here will prevail. But what you'll find is we have a very safe system," said Joe Bentley, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations.

IPL said future inspections of manhole covers downtown will take place at night, so as to not affect daytime traffic.