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Record Rains Put Workers to the Test

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By David Patterson and Shonna Quick-Crowell Your Union Good and Welfare Public Service AFSCME in the News
Record Rains Put Workers to the Test
Eric Wright, a maintenance operation technician and member of AFSCME Local 725 cuts up a tree felled by heavy rains. Photo credit: Shonna Quick-Crowell

INDIANAPOLIS – The challenge for AFSCME members working for Indiana cities and counties this summer was sometimes, literally, keeping their heads above water.  The state set a record for rainfall in June with an average of 9.03 inches, more than double what usually falls. July, too, brought record rainfalls to Indianapolis, breaking a 140 year-old record.

“We have what are called flap gates, and sometimes they get clogged with all kinds of debris, cattails, sticks, trash, so when we get heavy rains, the rain cannot flow,” said Sarah Miller, a maintenance operations technician for the City of Indianapolis-Marion County and a member of AFSCME Local 725. “The water got so high we had to use a vacuum to suck the debris out or grab rakes and pitch forks and dig through it ourselves,” she said.

Leslie Marks, an AFSCME Local 725 member and senior forestry technician with the City of Indianapolis-Marion County, also worked tirelessly removing huge trees, limbs and brush from city streets, alley ways and curbs.

“This flood had a major impact on our city,” she said. “There were a lot of aged trees that were uprooted and there were incredible amounts of vehicle and property damage.” One late night call her crew received was from a man who had parked his new truck in front of his house and was walking into his home when he heard a crack. “Five seconds later the tree fell on his new truck. The good news was there were no injuries.”

During one stretch in July, it rained constantly for five days. For four of those, it rained more than an inch each day. In that one week, the city received 400 tree-down complaints, 129 flooding/high water complaints and 1,140 tree debris complaints.

“I’m proud of the work our crew did. We worked hard and we cleared the streets in no time,” said Jackie Roberts, a 17-year heavy equipment operator. “Citizens across the city were very happy and appreciative when we showed up to open up their streets.”

Amid the challenges, city leaders and management lauded city workers for their hard work, long hours and dedication to their jobs.

“Our workers did an excellent job of responding,” said Steve Pruitt, assistant administrator of street operations at the Department of Public Works. “We put a plan together, worked together and executed it. They all did a great job.”