Winter costs mount as city government takes day off

Weather-related costs are pushing the city's budget for the entire winter.

The cold and snow this winter is getting costly.

In Indianapolis, the city budgeted $7.3 million for this year alone. In the snowstorm earlier this month, the city spent almost $5.5 million on snow removal, which nearly matches the $5.6 million the city paid all of last year's winter.

But those numbers don't tell the full story. The cost of the cold is actually a lot higher.

It's easy to add up the cost of snow removal, which includes things like overtime, contractors and salt supplies. But there are other things that are tougher to quantify - like shutting down city government Tuesday.

Mayor Greg Ballard told all but essential city employees, such as police and firefighters, to stay home.

"At this level of cold, which is very unusual, you have to be very cautious," Ballard said.

"It's understandable, but somebody could have let me know, I mean, now I'm stuck, I don't know when my court date is rescheduled for or anything. I need to talk to somebody," said one man at the City-County Building.

Even though, though the clerks office was dark, along with many others, city-county employees who stayed home still get paid because it's a forced day off and because the lights were on in payroll.

"I think it's silly. I'm a fan of Greg Ballard, but I think this is an area we disagree," said Barry Atwell.

He says closing the City-County Building is costly in other ways, as well.

"Obviously, the courts are going to be shut down, they've got to reschedule all those cases. It's been backlogged as is and now they're going to try to squeeze all those in somehow. I'm sure it's going to drive the judges nuts," he said.

With the CCB closed, so were all but a handful of vendors at City Market.

"With it being closed today, it has slowed business down a lot. But being that there's not a lot of places open, we're still pretty steady," said one City Market worker.

Fewer people dining out means a drop in food and beverage taxes. It also means less money going in to parking meters. Like the rest of us, the city also faces higher utility bills.

But on this day, all Skyelar Bottoms felt was frustration.

"I came in to get my son's birth certificate and they said I couldn't because it's shut down," Bottoms said. "Everywhere else is open, like people had to go to work. I'm off today, luckily, but my co-workers still had to go to work in this freezing weather."

The City-County Building had been on a two-hour delay Wednesday, but the mayor announced late Tuesday that because of an improving forecast, the government would open at its normal time. Marion County Superior and Circuit Court will also open at their normal time.

While the mayor agrees there is a cost to closing, he says for him, safety is the overriding issue.

Winter 2014 fact sheet