Donations help Montgomery Co. deal with snow removal after massive garage fire

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CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind.-- Questions have lingered about snow removal capabilities in Montgomery County after a massive fire destroyed the highway department’s fleet of winter vehicles.

But Monday, the Montgomery County Commissioners issued a proclamation thanking nearby counties and cities for stepping up and offering assistance with snow removal.

The City of Crawfordsville and Boone, Tippecanoe, Fountain and Putnam counties pledged to cover Montgomery County with snow removal services by extending their own routes when winter weather hits.

A total of eleven trucks were donated, on loan, to Montgomery County this winter. Carmel donated four trucks, Fishers donated two, while Fountain and Tippecanoe Counties each donated two trucks, and Boone County donated one truck.

“Immediately after the fire, we started receiving calls from different communities in the state offering to help any way they could,” explained Montgomery County Commissioner, Terry Hockersmith.

They even received calls from as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio.

“With the loaner trucks we’re getting, it will bring us up to speed as far as the number of trucks that we have in each quadrant,” Hockersmith added.

Typically, the Montgomery County Highway Department covers each of the county’s quadrants with three snow removing trucks and a grader truck for each snow event. Thanks to the donations and refurbishing of several older trucks in the highway department yard, Hockersmith says they’ll be able to do the same thing this year despite losing their fleet.

The fire erupted Sunday night, Nov. 5, while no employees were working at the garage on Whitlock Avenue.  Massive flames consumed the structure and more than a dozen trucks were burned to a crisp.

The burned frames and charred debris remains at the county highway garage. Officials say they cannot clear it away until insurance goes through the state fire marshal gives the “OK.”

“The night of the fire it just seemed overwhelming; what are we going to do, that kind of thing” said Hockersmith, “the employees out there just have that ‘can do’ spirit and they’re doing what they can with what they’ve got.”

Hockersmith said they’re still waiting to see what the insurance company will reimburse the county for the lost trucks. Initial estimates placed the damage at roughly $1.5 million. But Hockersmith said some of the trucks in service were more than 20 years old and had high mileage so they don’t anticipate large returns on those losses.

A new truck-- fully equipped and outfitted--runs about $200,000. Montgomery County cannot go about ordering new trucks for next year until receiving the reimbursement from insurance.

Hockersmith said the site has not yet been released by the state fire marshal; until then, the county cannot clear away the debris.

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