Monday, January 09, 2006

Highway Department

Many thanks to Jack Bush, Highway Superintendent, for spending nearly an hour and a half with me explaining how the department works and answering my questions. I did get to "meet" the snowplows - all twelve of them filled with sand and neatly angled in their spaces in the garage. I may get some of the numbers wrong here (I wasn't taking notes.) Jack, if you see an error that distorts the meaning please let me know.

Jack was a Highway Department employee before he was elected as Superintendent in 1999. At that time there were twenty-two or more employees. With an eye toward fiscal responsibility, as people retired or left, Jack did not replace them. When the department reached twelve employees it became clear that was too few. There are now sixteen with one additional position that can be used to hire temporarily as needed.

There are 163 roads, totaling 193 miles, in the Town of Dryden for which the Town is responsible. The Superintendent assesses the condition of the roads and prioritizes (I wish I could remember how many miles) to be repaired every year so that all roads get the attention they need over a cycle of several years.

Jack is also following a plan for replacing equipment when it's around six years old before repair costs get too high. Equipment slated for replacement this year includes a 1999 ten wheel dump truck, a 1984 (!) grader, a 2000 pick-up truck, a 2004 lawn tractor and a 2004 pick-up truck. Hmm... Those last two seem kind of new for replacement. In addition, the Superintendent is asking the Town Board to authorize the purchase of a used asphalt paver ($60,000), a new skid steer loader ($47,500), a used industrial vacuum ($65,000) and a trench box ($6,000). I trench box supports the excavation where sewer or water lines are being maintained.

I commented that the mild weather must be making things a bit easier. This morning they were cutting some trees and retrieving a deer carcass, among other things. But Jack pointed out that, though the roads and most of the ground in the Village are bare and dry, the drifts this morning on Mt Pleasant road were more than the pick-up plow could handle. I had planned to drive up that way to get a picture of my favorite tree. Sure enough. It was about eight degrees colder up there and the drifts were pretty impressive.

While I was there, I took the opportunity to drive down Hurd Road and Hunt Hill Road, which I've never looked at very closely. That area, in the south part of the town, is very different from my neighborhood. It is hilly and heavily wooded. There are some beautiful homes - mostly new, unusual designs, often quite concealed by the woods. I love this kind of sightseeing. You know I designed my house and I'm still working on the landscaping. So I see a lot of "Hey, I could do that." Or "Hmm... I wish I could afford that." Or "Good grief. What were they thinking?" I must say, this last often applies to royal blue metal roofing sometimes on a nineteenth century house.

It was a great morning. Jack, thanks for the time. I look forward to visiting again.


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