Indiana DPW director: Snow can be ‘budget buster’

Indiana DPW director: Snow can be ‘budget buster’

By Larry McGuire
Of The Spirit

INDIANA — The Borough of Punxsutawney isn't the only municipality that struggles with downtown snow removal.

The director of Public Works for the Borough of Indiana, Dave Fairman, said the borough typically doesn't remove snow from the downtown district on a regular basis.

Due to a snow emergency last winter, Indiana's eight-man Public Works crew did remove snow from the downtown district with the assistance from sub-contractors and a large snow blower from PennDOT.

"Because it was an emergency, we were able to recoup some of our funds that were spent through the state," he said.

Currently, Fairman said he's down to seven employees due to a resignation, and at times in the past, crews have come in at midnight, shut down a block at a time and removed the snow.

“We've kind of put it off. The snow removal in the downtown area kind of takes a backseat to Public Works due to other responsibilities and duties," he said.

Recently, downtown property owners have implemented a new program called a Business Improvement District (BID), which has the authority to levy a cost onto the business and property owners based on their linear footage of property that they have. From those funds, they are provided a service which includes snow removal from the sidewalk, street sweeping in the summertime and moving snow away from the parking meters, Fairman said.

"That is what the property owners are offered through BID, plus they receive some marketing and promotions during downtown events," he said.

The program needed 60-percent approval from the business and property owners along the designated BID route, which was received. Details on how those tasks will be accomplished still need to be worked out.

Fairman said his crews have 37 linear miles of streets to plow in Indiana.

"So, if you go to plow a street three maybe four times before you get it cleared to the curb, we're up to over 125 miles of plow route," he said. A street the entire length of Philadelphia Street, for example, consists of 16 blocks from First Street to 16th Street.

"Our downtown area business district is basically Fourth Street through 11th Street," he said.

In late January, Fairman said his crews had not yet moved any snow from the business district this season.

"It's getting to the point that my ears are going to be ringing from people complaining about it," he said. "It's takes quite a while to remove the snow from the downtown. Usually, my crew can only do four blocks at a time per shift. We close the street off and do it between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and our employees are on overtime.”

Fairman said because Philadelphia Street is a PennDOT road, he must inform the state, as well as Indiana Borough Police, when he plans to close the street.

"Make no mistake about it: Whenever we do snow removal in the business district, it's a budget buster, and BID funds will not pay for borough employee overtime," he said