With two months remaining, the winter of 2013-14 has been tough on Ticonderoga roads and its highway crew. Early heavy snows and ice storms have made for long hours and lots of expense.
Mike Parent doesn’t sleep well during the winter.
“I can hear it snow,” joked the Ticonderoga highway superintendent. “It keeps up at night.”
Actually, Parent is up many nights during the winter checking on road conditions. It’s his decision whether to call out his nine-man crew to clear roads of winter weather.
“I get a lot of help from the (Ticonderoga) police,” he said. “They’ll call me if they come across bad road conditions. Plus, I follow the weather closely. If a storm is expected I’m up checking (roads) myself.”
With two months remaining, the winter of 2013-14 has been tough on Ti roads and its highway crew. Early heavy snows and ice storms have made for long hours and lots of expense.
“During that first ice storm (early January) the boys worked 32 hours straight,” Parent said. “Finally, I told them they had to go home. We got a couple hours of sleep and got back at it.”
Assisting Essex County and New York State in maintaining locals roads, the Ticonderoga highway department is responsible for 193.6 lane miles of highway, 17 miles of sidewalks, four parking lots and the community airport.
There are eight snowplow drivers and a mechanic, although this winter the mechanic has been forced to plow as the crew struggles to keep up with Mother Nature.
“Each guy’s route is about 3 1/2 hours,” Parent said. “If it’s snowing an inch an hour, that means there’s 3 inches of snow on the road as he finishes his route. Then we do it all over again.”
This winter has been tough on the highway workers.
“Nights, weekends, holidays, it seems like we’re out non stop,” Parent said. “Everyone is tired.”
The weather has also been tough on the department’s equipment and supplies.
A plow truck crashed on the Vineyard during an ice storm Jan. 11. That truck was beyond repair, forcing the town to borrow an old vehicle from the county.
Ice has also forced the town to utilize more salt than ever before, Parent said.
“We’ve already used our salt for the year (season),” he said. “When we ran out I couldn’t get any more from our supplier. Everyone needed salt. So I borrowed some salt from the state (Department of Transportation), but then they ran low. Then I borrowed salt from Hague.
“I’d rather see 4 feet of snow than ice,” he said. “It’s the ice that uses up our salt.”
The town received delivery of 430 tons of salt Jan. 20. Some of that salt will be used to repay Hague.
Ticonderoga’s situation is not unique.
“I talk to all the other superintendents,” Parent said. “We’re all in the same boat. We all try to help each other out when we can.”
Parent is a veteran of winter wars. He worked on the Ti highway department crew for 35 years, serving as deputy highway superintendent 26 years. He has been highway superintendent the past three years.
“I’ve seen good years (winters) and bad years,” he said. “We’ve had it pretty easy the past couple of years. I guess we’re due for a winter like this. We do live in the Adirondacks, you know.”
This winter is also decimating the town highway budget. Parent has been so busy keeping up with local roads he hasn’t yet totalled the costs of employee overtime, equipment repair and replacement, and additional materials.
“I hate to think about it,” Parent said of the highway budget. “The scary thing is we have two months of this winter and we have to figure on next November, December in this (2014) budget.”