Manhole lids removed exposing danger in west Indianapolis neighborhood

Utility admits mistake after calls fell flat

INDIANAPOLIS - Parents living in a west Indianapolis neighborhood said they were left with dangerous deep holes on their streets after utility workers removed the manhole lids, a hazard that lasted more than three months until they contacted the Call 6 Investigators.

Work crews were spotted by neighbors removing all the manhole covers on July 12 near West Henry Street and South Exeter Avenue, near West Washington Street and Tibbs Avenue. They said the workers later replaced a couple of the lids, but left others wide open and exposed with no barricades or warnings to keep people from stepping or falling into them.

Only after repeated calls to city hall and utility companies were roadblocks and orange safety cones set up around the holes while the hazard remained into the final week of October.

"To me, it’s just a disaster waiting to happen," said Tom Wortman, who lives nearby. "Put the damn covers back on!"

He and other neighbors contacted the Call 6 Investigators after their calls to the Mayor’s Action Center and a local utility company failed to remedy the danger after more than three months.

"I was very surprised that they were left open like that for so long," Wortman said.

He said curious kids were sometimes spotted peering into the open holes, raising fears that they could fall in or climb in to explore the large storm sewer drain pipes that run beneath the streets.

Neighbors said the barricades that were erected after their repeated calls would still allow people to stumble into the holes, especially if they were walking at night.

When the Call 6 Investigators arrived, the missing manhole lids were found wide open near a church, where kids are often seen playing during weekly Sunday services and other events.

“It shouldn’t have to take Channel 6 coming out here to get something done,” Wortman said.

Less than 90 minutes after the Call 6 Investigators contacted Citizens Energy Group to inquire about why lids would be removed and left for months with no work being done, the utility admitted the matter had fallen through the cracks.

"We dropped the ball…..It shouldn’t  work that way," Dan Considine, spokesman for Citizens Energy, said.

He said records showed neighbors had called to express concern, but for some reason the proper work was never scheduled.

He blamed part of the problem on recent integration of storm sewers into Citizens Energy control after merging with city utilities in the past.

“(It was a) mistake made during a very complicated integration,” Considine said.

Work trucks arrived to measure and order new covers, and workers started replacing the covers within hours of being notified by the Call 6 Investigators.

A jackhammer and backhoe crew started digging around one of the exposed manholes, erecting new roadblocks and yellow tape around the construction site during the work.

Neighbors said they were satisfied that it was finally getting attention and the danger had subsided.

"Things tend to happen after it’s appeared on the news, I’ve noticed that," Wortman said.

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