DPW says weekend snow storm wasn’t enough for side streets, neighborhoods to be plowed

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) has several protocols to meet before a decision is made to hire a fleet of private contractors to attack side streets and neighborhoods in the wake of a major snowfall.

Saturday’s snow event didn’t make the cut.

While seven inches of snow was measured at Indianapolis International Airport, one inch above the limit to call out the contractors, DPW crews measured just 5.5 inches at the their salt barn in Franklin Township, the deepest snow measured in Marion County, and that was reason enough to not activate the contractor system.

“Is it over six inches? We didn’t get there this past weekend,” said DPW Director Dan Parker. “The second thing is, 'what type of weather is coming in after the fact? Are temperatures going to drop? Is it going to be windy?' Things like that. Third is, 'what type of snow did we get?' This snow, when you drove on it Saturday and Sunday, the pressure of your car you were getting down to bare pavement.”

Partly sunny skies and temperatures that approached the freezing mark Sunday made Saturday’s snow a candidate for natural melting and avoidance of calling out contractors.

“Will snow start melting later on?” asked Parker, explaining that private plows would not have received the word to mobilize until 8:30 a.m. Sunday. “With our contractors it takes four hours to assemble. Then they have a minimum of 24 hours to clear all the streets that they have assigned to them in the townships.”

By noon Monday, at the outside of that timetable window, pavement was already peeking through side streets across the city.

Contractors charge the city between $125 to $175 per hour to plow 4,000 miles of side streets and neighborhoods.

“In the budget we only have one call out budgeted per year,” said Parker. “It costs about a half a million dollars to call out all the contractors for a citywide call out. If we use it now we may not have it available for this next weekend which we’re predicting it could be even more snow.”

Whether the snow falls on a weekend, when school buses don’t run, or during the week, when an upcoming rush hour could be at risk, is also a factor in determining whether contractors will be called.

“They did not hit a lot of streets. Mainly it was like the tiny streets, not the major streets that they were hitting, the major streets and not the tiny streets,” said Manuel Solano as he surveyed streets in Haughville. “You want to get rid of anything that would cause damages to property or cause accidents in the future so it would be a good thing to get rid of them when they can.”

In the 1200 block of Holmes Avenue, Andre Cooper recalled a time in his youth when it seemed the streets were always plowed.

“They used to plow the side streets like back in the early nineties but like when 2000 hit I think they just stop doing it man,” he said. “I had to help a couple people over through there, I helped them get theyself out back on the road and stuff.”

If six inches of snow falls on Saturday and temperatures plummet below twenty degrees, Parker said DPW will consider the feasibility of activating its private contractor system.

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