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County Highway Dept

March 17, 2014 - 11:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in roads, weather, County Highway Dept.

For two consecutive winters, Genesee County used very little salt on roadways to help keep motorists safe, but what was saved disappeared quickly this winter, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens told the Public Service Committee on Monday.

Because of the mild winters, Hens started the year with salt in salt barns that was two years old and an unspent salt budget from last year. By Jan. 1, it was all gone and spent.

"We burned through both the pile and the money in November and December," Hens said. "So coming into January 1, I was already anxious to buy more. We had our new budget and filled the barns up with salt again. We burned through all the money we had budgeted for salt this year in about a month and a half."

So far, Hens said, the highway department is about $25,000 in the red for road salt in 2014.

"I've still got, theoretically, a few more storms this spring, storms or ice or whatever we end up getting, and I've got to figure on next November, December, too, and anything outside of it," Hens said.

To ensure an adequate salt supply, Hens is shifting money from the summer and fall road maintenance budget.

That probably means there are some potholes that won't get fixed.

"As everybody knows from driving around, pothole season is just starting," Hens said. "As bad as the winter's been, the temperature fluctuations, the extreme temperature fluctuations, where it's 20 below to 50 in two days, that freeze, thaw cycle just tears the pavement apart.

"We've had three or four of those huge swings this winter," Hens added, "and the pavement's starting to show it. As that frost comes out the ground, it's only going to get worse."

Hens also shared the observation that during our heavy snowstorm a week ago, there were few drivers on the road.

That made road maintenance a lot easier.

People stayed home, Hens figures, because the memory of January's blizzard was still on their minds.

"That was a bad storm," Hens said. "That was probably the worst that I'd seen since the Blizzard of '77. That storm caught a lot of people off guard just because we hadn't had a bad storm like that in a long, long time. That was very fresh in people's minds, and when they said the word blizzard this time -- the National Weather Service was pretty good about putting a blizzard warning out -- everybody was like, 'OK, last time we had a blizzard, it was nasty. I'm staying home.' "

February 26, 2014 - 3:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tim hens, County Highway Dept.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens is about to fill a role occupied by two of his predecessors -- NYS County Highway Superintendents Association.

What's unique, perhaps, is that Laura Mullen, a principle financial clerk with the highway department since 1957, has work for both of the previous presidents from Genesee County.

That would be Joe Amedick, who served in 1987 and Bob Carrier, who served in 1959.

Now part-time, Hens finds Mullen indispensable.

"She knows where thr vendor files are from ions ago," Hens said. "She knows where bridge files are, road files are. Any bit of information I need, she knows exactly what box it is in in the storeroom."

When Hens started his job 16 years ago, there were no computers. He said he couldn't work like that, so his computer was the first in the department. 

Mullen, already with more than 30 years on the job, jumped right in with automation and took classes at Genesee Community College on her own time, at her own expense, to learn Microsoft Office.

Hens said Mullen will fill in wherever she's needed.

He has his own kind of seniority going. At 16 years on the job, he's the fourth or fifth most senior county highway superintendent among the 57 counties in the state.

The association, he said, serves an important role in helping the state's highway departments and public works departments share information and best practices as well as lobbying Albany to maintain funding for roads and bridges.

If a member has a question, they jump online, ask it, and might get 30 answers.

"You learn something from other counties or something that somebody has already done and that saves you a lot of time and a lot of hassle," Hens said.

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