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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Stuart Price of Price Landscaping tries unsuccessfully to clear and open a gate to a north-side self-storage facility so he can plow Tuesday.

Contractors plowing through calls

Many don’t have time to fill need for snow removal

Work has been a “nonstop situation” the past three days for Joel Wilhelm of Down to Earth Lawn and Landscaping.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook,” Wilhelm said around noon Tuesday.

While helping his regular residential and commercial clientele out of the 9-plus inches of snow Fort Wayne has seen since Sunday, he’s spent more than 37 hours in his truck, and the calls keep coming.

He estimates he’s taken 500 calls in the past three days from people who aren’t his customers but who want help plowing their driveways.

Wilhelm and other local snow removal contractors were bombarded with last-minute calls from people wanting to escape the house after an extended weekend when many people were off work Monday.

“If anyone sees us on Google or sees us on the road or driving down the street, they want us to come do their driveway,” Wilhelm said.

But he can’t say yes to everyone. He tells unscheduled callers he’ll take their information and let them know when he gets caught up. But after the list gets to about 20 or 25 people, he makes the cutoff and tries to point them to another snow removal service that might be able to help.

But other businesses that serve the Fort Wayne area were just as busy Tuesday afternoon.

Krystal Boggs, who answers the phones for the family-owned Price Landscaping and Lawn Maintenance LLC at 7320 McComb Road in Churubusco, said her phone was ringing off the hook.

“As soon as someone calls, someone else is beeping in,” Boggs said.

Her husband, Stuart Price, owns the business, and he was out along with three other snow plows Tuesday afternoon.

Boggs said that when unexpected customers call, she usually takes their information and calls Price to see whether he can fit them into his schedule. If he can, she calls the customer back to confirm the appointment.

But since the phones were so busy Tuesday, she started doing things differently.

“Now I have them talk to Stuart first and then call back to give me their information,” Boggs said.

Price’s snow removal business covers Churubusco, Huntertown and most of Fort Wayne’s north and central regions. But his team has been way behind schedule, Boggs said, with the number of unexpected calls.

Along with Price’s residential customers, he plows for eight gas stations and a few McDonalds and Taco Bells, which take precedence over last-minute callers.

“The gas stations have to be open, and people have to be able to do the drive-thru at restaurants,” Boggs said.

So when Price’s team adds unexpected appointments, they’re working shifts of 12 to 18 hours to get the job done.

“Monday morning, he got home at 1:30 a.m. and got to sleep about 2 a.m.,” Boggs said. “Then he was back up at 5 a.m. and out.”

Wilhelm and his team was running a similar schedule this week.

His company at 1916 Maples Road in Fort Wayne covers most of Allen County and some of Auburn, and his three trucks were all working overtime.

Drivers put in extended hours and sometimes called for backup just so they could get enough sleep to drive before getting back on the job, Wilhelm said.

The top of his list was two nursing homes that needed to be plowed for emergency vehicles to get in and out of the parking lot. He also prioritized two hotels, four banks, four gas stations and a handful of other companies on his list.

And with the city’s dangerously subzero temperatures Tuesday, it was difficult for his crew to get their work done in a timely manner when they were outside.

Crosby Excavating Inc. at 5800 Fairfield Ave. said its workers were pulling 20-hour and 24-hour shifts this week, too.

A call operator for the company said it didn’t receive more than 10 unexpected calls Monday or Tuesday, but it was already booked well into Thursday morning with regular clientele.

“Our policy is we have to finish contract work before we do for-hire work,” the call operator said.