TERRE HAUTE —
The snow may be slowly melting away, but the bills from last week’s mega winter storm continue to pile higher.
Local governments were forced to spend big sums in employee overtime and fuel expenses to attempt to keep roads clear while Wabash Valley residents paid in dozens of other ways, including furnace repairs, unplanned stays in motels and towing fees.
“It’ll be tens of thousands of dollars for this one,” said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, reflecting on the cost to the City. “It was a pretty big storm.”
Vigo County also faced big expenses from the storm, said Dan Bennett, superintendent of the county highway department. In addition to fuel and staffing costs, the county is also looking at five or six towing bills after a handful of plows became stuck during the storm, he said.
“The overtime for this thing is going to be considerable,” Dan Bennett said.
City and county snowplows were running 24 hours a day starting Sunday afternoon through Thursday, meaning lots of overtime pay and fuel expense. Final cost figures were not yet available, the mayor and the highway superintendent said.
Terre Haute sets aside enough money to pay for six big snow events each year, the mayor said. The storm that started a week ago counted for at least two storms, he added.
“This is a big one,” Mayor Bennett said. “I don’t think we’ve had one of these kinds of storms in 20 or 25 years.”
Despite the high cost of the storm, Bennett did not believe it would necessarily push the City over its budgeted snow and ice removal budget for 2014. Of course, that will depend on the weather. “We’ve got plenty of money in [the budget] right now to deal with this,” Bennett said. “But what else will happen the rest of this winter or next December?”
Dan Bennett, highway superintendent, said he plans to meet this week with the County Commissioners to discuss the costs of the storm. He’ll look at specific budget numbers “after we get out of the woods,” he said.
A bright side
While the storm has had a high price for local governments and residents, it gave a boost in business for a few area industries, including towing, furnace repair and hospitality.
“We’re running nonstop,” said Bob Miller, service manager for Paitson Bros. Heating and Air Conditioning, a Terre Haute-based business. The bitter cold Monday and Tuesday saw dozens of furnace failures that required emergency-level response, added Ethan Rayburn, general manager of the business.
“Obviously, it was bitterly, bitterly cold,” he said.
On Friday, Paitson’s Miller was working at the home of Jerry and Imogene Tiller in Terre Haute. Their furnace stopped working during the worst of the cold snap and Paitsons responded promptly to make the needed repairs, Jerry Tiller said. The company was back Thursday to follow up.
“We’ll get you through and keep your heat on for you,” Miller told the homeowner.
In 58 years of marriage, the Tillers had never experienced an emergency furnace call, Jerry said after shoveling the snow from his driveway. “Paitsons is really good about taking care of their customers.”
Towing services also saw a big increase in business as a result of the storm.
“We’ve been busy since Sunday,” said Debbie May of Mike’s Auto Wrecking and Towing in Terre Haute. The same was true of Peffley & Hinshaw Wrecker Service, which tows disabled semitrailers, said Paul May, owner. In addition to snow-related problems, the diesel fuel of some semitrailers became jelled during the deep freeze, leaving them stranded, he said.
Durr’s Towing of Terre Haute became very busy starting Tuesday, said Bob Durr, owner. On Monday, most people stayed home, he said. On Tuesday, they were trying to get around and often became stuck in the deep snow.
Durr’s was operating round-the-clock, Durr said Thursday. “It’ll be this way for another week.”
For area hotels, business was also brisk as some local residents lost heat or electricity and passing motorists were forced to exit Interstate 70.
The first 10 days of January are normally very slow in the hotel business, said Bill Burdine, area manager for the Holiday Inn – Terre Haute and the Springhill Suites. This storm changed that significantly. “It was good for us.”
The boost in sales may have been a welcome surprise for some local businesses, but it came at a steep price to those same firms, their owners and employees. Most people in those businesses got little sleep from Sunday through Wednesday as they went to extraordinary measures to serve their customers.
The Holiday Inn–Terre Haute and Springhill Suites both went to extra lengths to make sure customers had clean rooms and – more importantly – plenty to eat while stranded, Burdine said. The Holiday Inn provided free soup in its lobby for its guests and staff purchased supplies from a local wholesale business in order to make sure that specific food items – such as eggs – were on hand, he said. Hotel employees spent the night on-site to keep the kitchen and restaurant staffed, he added.
“We were able to take care of our guests well and make a lot of new friends,” Burdine said. On Monday, few area businesses were open, so the guests relied on the hotel for food, he said.
“We were the only place in the area that was taking care of our customers,” he said. “They couldn’t go anywhere. It was almost like going to a ski lodge.”
Early Monday morning, in sub-zero temperatures, Paitson’s Miller was more-than knee deep in snow on the roof of a customer’s home in southern Vigo County clearing an exhaust flu, he recalled. The company was also forced to use four-wheel drive pickup trucks to reach some remote customers, noted Rayburn.
“We were all over,” Rayburn said. The company serviced disabled furnaces in rural Parke, Vermillion, Edgar and other area counties, he said. “You realize what’s at stake when it’s 13 below,” Rayburn said. “We kind of threw away the time clock.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TERRE HAUTE —
The snow may be slowly melting away, but the bills from last week’s mega winter storm continue to pile higher.
- Local & Bistate
Purdue shooting leaves one person dead
A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus on lockdown, police and the university said.
DIABETES: Canvasing families
Four Wabash Valley mothers who sat around a circular table Thursday night couldn’t hold back tears as they talked about their children’s battles with a lifelong disease and their hopes for helping other affected families.
THS grad Miller among students in adjacent building when shooting occurs
Kris Miller and his roommate were in a computer lab of Purdue’s mechanical engineering building Tuesday when they received a call that a shooting had occurred next door.
Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee
Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.
We enter the deep freeze again
If you had to step outside to get your newspaper this morning, you might have noticed it’s painfully cold once again.
Levy redirects school funds
If the new “protected levy” legislation goes into effect later this year, it would mean “a substantial reduction” in revenue for Vigo County School Corp. bus transportation, capital projects and bus replacement funds, according to the district’s chief financial officer.
School debt levy redirects funds across Indiana
School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.
VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board
Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.
Vigo coroner tries again for salary increase
After being denied last year, Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos is again seeking to have her county salary increased to match that of several other county office holders.
MAX JONES: Newspapers can be fun, too; check out Readers’ Choice
Smart and savvy newspaper readers (that’s all of you, of course) know full well that their daily consumption of news and information isn’t an exclusively high-brow pursuit.
- Tackling rights: Enshrining Indiana heritage must wait
You’re home now
To say that Michael Curry was stressed is an understatement.
‘Ups and downs’ in the Statehouse
As state legislators head into the final week of the state legislative session, five of them from the Wabash Valley met with citizens Saturday at the Vigo County Public Library in downtown Terre Haute and engaged in conversation about the “ups and downs” of the recent session.
Finding what the kids need
One Saturday morning event in Terre Haute aimed to raise awareness about the resources available to people with disabilities.
Spotting pot, gun in home nets 2 arrests.
Two adults were arrested and two children removed from a Vigo County home on Friday after drugs and a handgun with altered serial numbers were discovered in the home, authorities said.
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Focus on poverty, inequality
The issues of poverty and inequality will be at the forefront of the 13th annual Terre Haute Human Rights Day on March 18 at Indiana State University.
VIDEO: Tasting their way to a cure
People appeared to be in high spirits Friday inside the historic Indiana Theatre as they gathered for an evening of wine, food and conversation while supporting efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.
Same-sex marriage: 4 couples sue state over ban
Four gay couples from southern Indiana sued the state Friday, seeking to force Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state and issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Time to check smoke alarms
Three years after a house fire on South Nine Street in Terre Haute resulted in the death of three people, a Terre Haute grandmother still wonders if the outcome of that fire would have been different if smoke detectors in the home had been working.
Indiana State Board extends president’s contract
Indiana State University has signed up Dan Bradley, the school’s president, for an additional three years of service.
New animal shelter gets welcome boost
The aging Terre Haute Humane Society shelter is not a place for the faint of heart.
4 couples sue Indiana over same-sex marriage ban
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Four couples from southern Indiana are asking a federal judge to force the state to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Vigo County Jail Log: March 7, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
Bill for welfare drug testing in negotiation
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indiana lawmakers trying to pass a bill requiring drug tests for some welfare recipients say they have passed voluntary drug tests.
Book signing March 7 in Crossroads Café to benefit Success By 6
The book “One Day I Could Be ... Careers in the Wabash Valley,” is on sale now and will be available at a book signing today, March 7, during a First Friday event in downtown Terre Haute.
Groups ask regulators to probe plant’s power woes
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Environmental and citizens’ groups are asking Indiana regulators to launch a formal investigation into problems and delays that have sharply limited the power output of Duke Energy’s $3.5 billion coal-gasification plant near Edwardsport.
Nature trust expands Owen-Putnam State Forest
POLAND, Ind. (AP) — State officials say funding from the Bicentennial Nature Trust has helped the Indiana Department of Natural Resources expand a central Indiana state forest by 84 acres.
Vigo County high school team in FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional
Drivers of remote-controlled robots will match skills, similar to those used in basketball and soccer, to score in the FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Benefit planned for daycare fire victim
Veronica Gray never met 19-month-old Emma Lloyd, but when she learned about the child’s tragic death in a Sullivan day care fire, she had to do something.
Winter’s costs add up for Vigo
While still within county and city budgets, the snowstorms of January and February were more costly than a year ago.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Purdue shooting leaves one person dead