IN Focus: Hogsett requests rainy day funds for pothole problem

INDIANAPOLIS - The city of Indianapolis will allocate millions of dollars to fix potholes and resurface roads, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Friday.

Hogsett declared an emergency that authorizes the Department of Public Works to begin aggressively addressing the roads. He’s requesting the use of millions of dollars from the city’s rainy day fund.

Hogsett called this a problem decades in the making and said the topsy-turvy nature of winter weather has made things even worse.

“What people are seeing out their windows was created over the last three months, and that must be acknowledged. But make no mistake: this was a problem decades in the making,” he said.

Hogsett said the city would dedicate a total of $100 million to fixing the roads in 2018. That includes $13 million from the city’s rainy day fund plus $1 million in additional funding as well as $88 million already allocated to road projects this year.

The money won’t solve the city’s road woes, Hogsett acknowledged, but the mayor said it would be the start of a long-term project.

“It will probably take more authentic, genuine discussion about a long-term solution if we are to maintain infrastructure in our city,” Hogsett said.

“We’re trying to respond to what has been an unusual winter,” Hogsett said. “It’s not just the weather—the water, the rain, and the usage.”

“The $13 million that we’re adding won’t solve the problem, but it’s $13-$14 million that will help us,” he said. “It’s an investment that we’re making in Marion County roads and streets for 2018.”

Hogsett said crews will conduct a pothole blitz next week. The city will bring in outside contractors to help and will also strip some problematic roads and resurface them entirely. He said expected dry weather beginning Sunday will help the effort.

The City-County Council is expected to take up the road plan on March 12, when the mayor will request $14 million. However, some of the work–such as strip patching–will begin before the council vote and isn’t dependent on the March 12 date, according to DPW Director Dan Parker.

The pothole problem has also become a political problem for the mayor, with local Republicans blasting Hogsett for his office's handling of the situation.

In a statement Friday, county GOP chairman Jim Merritt said:

"Sadly, the citizens of Indianapolis had to wait for Pothole Joe to get tire damage to his own vehicle before he realized that our streets are in crisis. The real crisis we are facing as a community is the lack of leadership in the Mayor’s office. Every previous mayor in our city’s history has understood that their job is to pick up trash, shovel snow, fill potholes and keep us safe, why has Joe Hogsett missed the memo on his core responsibilities?  Additionally, his solution is to spend down the rainy day fund instead of using millions of dollars provided to him by the State? When is he going to stand up, anticipate problems and lead our city?”