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City, county crews working to patch problematic potholes

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Tyler Rankin of the Greenfield Street Department helps fill a city truck with patching material before heading out on a pothole mission. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Tyler Rankin of the Greenfield Street Department helps fill a city truck with patching material before heading out on a pothole mission. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)


* For potholes on Greenfield city streets, contact the Greenfield Street Department: (317) 325-1680; email pothole@greenfieldin.org.

* For problems on rural roads in Hancock County, contact the Hancock County Highway Department: 477-1112; fill out form at www.hancockcoingov.org/highway-department-problem-form.

* For potholes on interstate highways, U.S. highways or state roads, contact the Indiana Department of Transportation Greenfield District: 1-855-463-6848; email eastcentralin@indot.in.gov.


GREENFIELD — If Jim Hahn has learned just one thing in the past three months, it’s this: His boss is Mother Nature.

The Greenfield street commissioner has barely caught up on sleep from trying to keep up with central Indiana’s snowiest winter on record. Now, he’s already switching gears to tackle another problem – potholes.

The excessive moisture from the melting snow is causing potholes to form everywhere, big and small. It looks as if, Hahn says, “somebody’s gone around town with grenades and dropped them off.”

And it’s not like he can just ignore the problem. Potholes have to be repaired for the safety of motorists and longevity of the roads.

“This beats all. This 2013/2014 winter is the most demanding on every facet of everything that we do,” Hahn said. “It tops everything from budget numbers, to overtime numbers, to road conditions to what our plans were as far as paving and resurfacing. Everything changes now, because Mother Nature has demanded we take care of problems now.”

Hahn says crews have been on city streets for several days now, patching what they can until it gets dry enough to put a more permanent seal down.

The freezing and thawing this week is causing potholes to open up everywhere. Residents are calling in to report them, which Hahn said helps, but he also hopes people use common sense and avoid damaging their vehicles in potholes as much as possible.

His advice is simple: “If you’re driving and it looks like water is in a hole, there probably is one. Just avoid it.”

City and county street officials have been worried for weeks now about their material and overtime budgets. Now that pothole season is upon them, both Hahn and Hancock County engineer Gary Pool say they might have to ask their municipal councils for more money.

“I’m still working this Rubik’s cube of numbers here,” Pool said.

While the county department is also sending crews out to patch potholes, Pool is pragmatic, knowing another round of snow could come to cause even more damage.

“We try to get them as we can in the winter, and we’ll really start kicking into them toward the mid or end of March,” he said, adding that the steel blades of plows damage roads. “There’s nothing worse than putting a brand new pothole (patch) down, just to plow it out.”

Interstates and state highways are also seeing their fair share of potholes, said Harry Maginity, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation. They don’t seem particularly worse this year than any other spring, but Maginity has a prediction:

“There’s certainly a lot more to come,” he said. “We’re in the pothole business, and we’re going to chase after them just as soon as somebody calls us and lets us know where they are.”

All three road officials are urging local residents to report potholes to their email addresses and pothole hotlines.

Hahn, who acknowledged his “boss” is not just Mother Nature, but local taxpayers, said the department is trying to do the best it can to keep up with patching.

(His bosses have also been very good to the department this winter, Hahn added. Even with all of the calls of complaints, there have also been plenty of cookies, brownies and cards of support.)

And then there’s Hahn’s other boss. Mayor Chuck Fewell met with street department staff recently, “sternly” telling them to never call a pothole a chuckhole again.

Chuckling Thursday, Fewell said he doesn’t want to be associated with the annual springtime hazard.

“I said, ‘We don’t call them chuckholes in Greenfield.’ They said, ‘Really? What do you call them?’  I said, ‘Henryholes.’”

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