INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The Richmond Hill explosion had a painful and immediate cost, with lives lost and houses damaged beyond repair. But it also carried a heavy price for the city of Indianapolis: a large bill for overtime and other costs that's already topped $300,000.
In the three weeks after the explosion that killed two, irreparably damaged dozens of houses, and sparked a homicide investigation, police, fire and other Department of Public Safety officials blanketed the area. DPS said officers and investigators have accrued 5,204 regular-time hours and 1,626 overtime hours to date since the night of the explosion. Indianapolis Firefighters worked 911 regular hours on the explosion scene.
The total cost of IMPD and Homeland Security hours is $228,895. Add to that $79,778 generated through IFD personnel and equipment costs, and the total amount spent so far climbs to $308,674.
"From the initial blast, we had a few hundred government employees that were there, and now we're down to about 58 per day," Public Safety Director Troy Riggs told 24-Hour News 8 on Thursday. "The minimum we've had on any day is about 20. The thing that we told people the first night of the explosion was be patient. A lot has to go into these investigations. I think this really showcases the effort that has gone in 24/7 since the explosion occurred."
During the first week following the explosion, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department alone had 487 officers and investigators working on the ground, accumulating 1,097.25 hours of overtime at a cost of $51,111. Indianapolis Animal Control also had 27 employees on site, and the Department of Homeland Security had four personnel.
Staffing levels have dropped from there, with 205 IMPD officers working on the case in the second week and 58 IMPD officers in the third week.
"And, these numbers are just the Department of Public Safety," Riggs said. "It doesn't include Code Enforcement, what the prosecutor is doing, or the response from the Sheriff's Department."
Asked about the impact of the numbers on his department's budget, Riggs said he had no doubt they would force "creative budgeting next year." But Riggs said officers are doing the job they have to do.
"It's a criminal homicide. It's one of the largest explosions that's ever occurred in the nation at this level. So we need to make sure we're doing our due diligence. We need to process a lot of evidence. We need to make sure we have an adequate amount of people to bring the person or persons responsible to justice," he said.
Despite a lack of headlines and official details on the investigation in recent weeks, Riggs says investigators are making "steady progress."
Some forensic tests results are in. Testimony from dozens of witnesses is being compiled. Search warrants have been served.
But, on all of them, Riggs would provide few details.
"There's always a potential for additional interviews, always a potential for talking to people, [and for] trying to gather additional evidence. We just continue to work the case. We're going to look at all potential evidence we have and any leads we have. And, you can tell that by the numbers," Riggs said.
Riggs did, however, address the potential effect the unexpected costs might have on next year's DPS budget.
"We'll have to absorb this, no doubt," he said. "But, we have a large budget. Almost half a billion dollars a year. We're going to save nearly $300,000 from cuts in my office alone, so we'll save enough to absorb them."
Asked if he was worried about costs climbing higher, Riggs said no.
"If you look at the numbers, most of the costs were in the first week," he said. "I don't see that type of expense [in the case] again."
Still, Riggs stopped short of saying the bills were done piling up.
"It would not surprise me any day that they would serve a warrant to look for information," he said. "These investigators are working. They have the green light to do what they think is necessary to bring the people responsible for this to justice."
Interstate 70 east near Interstate 465 was reopened Tuesday evening after a crash blocked all lanes around 6:30 p.m.
If you're looking for something to do over the next seven days you may want to check out Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
On Tuesday, Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite will promote 23 officers. Three sergeants will be elevated to the rank of lieutenant. Twenty patrol officers will be promoted to the rank of sergeant.