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New highway superintendents get quick lesson in winter weather

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After November’s elections, six new town highway superintendents readied themselves to take charge Jan. 1.

What they didn’t know then was that they would be taking over the reins in one of the coldest and snowiest winters Lewis County has seen in a number of years.

For Lewis town Highway Superintendent Lynn F. “Frank” Platt, leading his crew of four men came easily, in part because he was returning to his old post, having served in the same role in the 1990s.

Deputy Superintendent Thomas R. Cullings “really stepped up to the plate,” Mr. Platt said. Mr. Cullings brings 31 years of snow-removal experience to the department, which plows about 40 miles in its territory, including town and county roads.

“Everything has gone really smoothly,” Mr. Platt said. As for the extreme temperatures and heavy snowfall so far, Mr. Platt takes it in stride.

“This is nothing,” he said. “It’s just a normal winter in Northern New York.”

In the town of Pinckney, Highway Superintendent Donald M. Cook also praised his crew for a good season so far.

“They’ve all been here for a while,” he said. “They know what they’re doing.”

Mr. Cook was familiar with north country winters when in 2010, after 30 years of owning property in the county, he retired from the lumber business and converted his camp into a full-time home.

A former member of the Town Council, Mr. Cook defeated incumbent Carl Groff with write-in votes.

“I’d been in the trade business. I was familiar with heavy equipment,” Mr. Cook said.

His crew includes two other men, maintaining 35 miles of roadway.

Late Monday morning, they were just finishing a second round of plowing and anticipating a late afternoon or early evening third run.

Like Mr. Cook, Clifford A. “Tony” Young won his highway superintendent position by write-in, defeating incumbent Adrian F. Perry in the town of Montague.

Mr. Young was plowing and couldn’t be reached for comment most of the day. When he finally was able to answer, he was called away again quickly before he could discuss his first few weeks on the job.

“It’s been like this all day with the storm,” Montague town employee Alan J. House said, but he wasn’t complaining.

“In the good old days, they called the plows ‘snowfighters,’” he said. “The men work long hours, but we enjoy every minute of it.”

Mr. House reported poor to no visibility while plowing throughout Monday’s storm.

New Bremen Highway Superintendent Jonathan M. Bush already was quite familiar with the approximately 77 miles of town and county roads in his district. “I’ve worked here for 17 years,” he said.

He’s been plowing alongside his crew of five full-time men and a handful of part-time help, as well.

“Everything is good. We’ve been busy is all,” he said.

Lyonsdale Highway Superintendent Terry L. Swiernik brought more than 20 years of construction experience with him to his new position.

Along with four crew members, Mr. Swiernik maintains 56 miles of town and county roads.

“Everything’s been going pretty well,” he said. He said they have used slightly more salt and sand this January than last.

“We’ve kept the roads pretty much bare all winter,” he said.

Osceola Highway Superintendent Richard N. Meagher, who narrowly defeated incumbent Michael J. Wilk in November, did not return calls to the Times.

The town of Lowville got a new highway superintendent, as well, but not by election.

It’s one of the few towns in the state that seats the position by appointment, rather than election.

Mark D. Tabolt was appointed to replace exiting Highway Superintendent Richard T. Dening.

Mr. Tabolt reported a very smooth transition, as he took over a full-time crew of five men and one part-time winter help employee covering 38 miles of roadway.

Having served as the village of Lowville superintendent of public works since October 2005 through his retirement in December, Mr. Tabolt was familiar with his new job duties.

To prepare his replacement at the village job, Mr. Tabolt spent time in December showing Thomas S. Compo the ropes.

“Those two weeks definitely helped,” said Mr. Compo, whose appointment began Jan. 1.

Though Mr. Compo’s crew faced the same snowfall and low temperatures as the rest of the county, he acknowledged their plowing is a bit easier.

“We’re fortunate in the village to have buildings to see,” he said. “In other places in the county, they have nothing. It’s just a whiteout.”

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