Indy homeowners plead for help with pothole-ridden alley

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – While the city’s Department of Public Works addresses hundreds of open pothole repair requests, homeowners in one east side neighborhood are pleading for crews to head their way.

Barbara Hyde has lived along East 37th Street for decades. She, like several others, uses an alley to get in and out of her garage.

“It’s the only way in and the only way out,” she explained.

For years, that alley has been plagued with potholes.

“It’s deteriorating pretty bad,” she said.

Hyde points to the largest pothole on the block. Admittedly, it is as big as the CBS4 news vehicle.

“It swallows your car,” Troy Hardester said.

Hardester lives across the street from Hyde. He is concerned not only because the colossal crater has already damaged vehicles, but because people are now swerving into his yard to avoid damage.

“I have no grass,” he said. “They’re destroying it.”

Hyde and Hardester called the CBS4 Problem Solvers pleading for help. They say the Mayor’S Action Center has refused to help them, and they can’t go on like this much longer.

“I had to shovel rocks up against my steps because when I come out the back door, it’s a puddle. I made it so I wouldn’t step in the water,” Hyde said. “It’s just a mess.”

Hyde said every time she goes outside, she must be careful that cars don’t splash her with water.

“When it rains and it kind of dries, it doesn’t really dry completely. It turns green, it has an alga to it,” Hyde described. “It has an odor.”

CBS4 asked the city when crews plan to address the alley off of East 37th Street. A spokesperson refused to go on camera, but sent several emails instead:

“Major thoroughfares and residential streets are serviced first as they carry more traffic. Transportation funding goes toward named streets. Alleys, like the one in question, are not named streets.”

Charnay Pickett, who works for DPW, wouldn’t say when she thought crews would eventually get to the pothole along that alley.

The other problem, homeowners say, is that the city has been to the alley in years past for the same problem. Hyde and Hardester pointed out that crews have patched previous potholes so many times, that the alley now has a steep grade to where it’s causing drainage problems.

“What I would love to see is the whole place scraped. It needs to be scraped. It doesn’t need to be filled in. it needs to be scraped out and relaid,” Hyde said, frustrated.

Hyde’s garage now has structural damage. CBS4 anchor Angela Brauer could clearly see a water line and the wood was chipping apart.

“They’re not doing anything,” Hyde said. “We didn’t create this mess.”

DPW suggested CBS4 call Citizen’s Energy Group about the drainage problem, saying it might be a problem with a storm drain. A spokesperson with Citizen’s responded right away and sent a representative to check the area. The company confirmed there was no drainage infrastructure to assess and that the drainage problems would likely be the city’s responsibility.

When CBS4 went back to the city about the flooding problem, Pickett explained that East 37th Street would be included in a 2019 capital improvement project. After a few emails back and forth, she added that the alley in question would not be a part of that project because the city didn’t have the funding for it.

“The drainage issue must be seen in terms of a future neighborhood-wide improvement to increase the capacity of the storm water system. However, it is important to note that this location in is in the Combined Sewer Overflow area, in which all storm water infrastructure leads to the sanitary system, owned and maintained by Citizens Energy Group. Any future project to increase the capacity of the system would have to be coordinated with Citizens Energy Group and specifically engineered with both sanitary and storm water infrastructure considerations in mind,” she wrote.

Pickett suggested the homeowners file a claim with the city. A public record request shows though, that the city is particular when it comes to tort claims. Out of the 1,317 pothole damage claims it received in 2018, Indianapolis only granted 13.

“Enough is enough,” Hardester said. “Fix the problem.”

As of late January, there was still no clear solution for Hyde, Hardester or any of their neighbors. CBS4 contacted the Indiana Legal Services on the homeowners’ behalf and is now waiting for a response.

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