Highway Department works to improve town, part II
Fifty years later, the times have changed, and the roads need repaving. That’s where the Cheektowaga Highway Department comes in.
After years of what the department considers unfortunate disregard, Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner and Deputy Superintendent Mike Lumadue have made it their mission to improve whatever they can in town, as quickly as possible.
“We call it years of neglect,” Lumadue said. “We’re just trying to get caught up. Mark’s trying to build a different environment here to help as many people as we can.”
Wegner is in his fifth year as superintendent, and since taking the reigns has worked relentlessly to ensure the overall “upkeep” of town roads. He finds it essential to work hand-in-hand with the Cheektowaga Town Board and the Engineering Department because the way he sees it, it’s a collaborative effort.
And he has big plans for the town – along with hard workers to carry them out.
With a 15-year plan to fix up the town’s infrastructure, the Highway Department works – whenever it can – to be out with the old and in with the new.
“Age takes its toll on everything,” Kaminski said. “And the Highway Department knows it better than anybody. Anything from sewers, waterlines, storm sewers, everything – it’s not getting any newer, and it’s expensive to take care of it.”
But the department has its mind set on taking care of everything, and with some time, all town roads can consider themselves repaved and renewed.
It begins in South Cheektowaga, where the department has established its starting point. It ends by working its way up north, until each and every town road is at its best. And it’s all part of a tedious process – every street is milled, receivers and pipe work are fixed, the street is repaved, 20 years go by, and the process begins again.
It’s important to know exactly what it is the Highway Department does. From street paving to plowing, from tree planting to branch removal, the department has a lot on its plate.
And so do the workers.
Standing on 150-degree blacktop for days on end isn’t exactly an ideal job description. But somebody has to do it, and the guys in the department work to do it well.
“I don’t know how they do it,” said Councilmember Jerry Kaminski, who will be the first to attest to the department’s work ethic. “It’s gotta take its toll sooner or later, but you know what? The guys love what they do.”
Consider the recent Maryvale Drive repaving project. It took seven trucks with seven drivers, five laborers in total, an operator, two rollers, and a foreman and 1,100 tons of cement. Fifteen receivers were built on that street alone.
It was completed in one day.
“I’m still amazed at that,” Kaminski said. “These guys really work.”
There are 752 streets in the Town of Cheektowaga, and some have not been repaved in 25 years. The Highway Department paved 66 streets last year and estimates another 66 for this year.
But like anything else, the work takes time.
“Many residents want things done quicker and might not consider the cost involved in meeting that expectation,” said Councilmember Angela Wozniak, who had a recent meeting with Wegner to learn more about the department’s work. “Hiring another 50 employees might get things done a lot quicker and get their street paved, or sidewalks refinished, but it will come with a huge expense. The Highway Department budgets projects over a 10-year span, so the work will get done, but might not be scheduled for right away.”
Judith Golas works as a senior clerk for the Highway Department. She receives calls everyday from residents – calls of questions, calls of complaints, calls of concerns – and relays them to Wegner, who takes every call into account. Golas says that people are most confused by the process by which the Highway Department does things – and everything is part of a process.
“Some projects are bigger than others and it’s all a process, and a lot of people don’t understand that,” she explained.
But the process is ongoing, and new methods have been introduced to make things more effective. One of those things was the February installation of GPS systems on all vehicles, which are equal parts convenient and efficient.
“If someone calls and says a truck was speeding, we can look up that truck number and see how fast the truck was going,” Wegner said. “Or in the wintertime we’ll use it if someone calls and says, ‘My street hasn’t been plowed.’ I can say, ‘They were on your street at this time, or you’re right, they didn’t plow it yet, let me find out why.”
The GPS system also saves money for the town, making it not only efficient, but also cost-effective.
“There’s fuel savings involved,” Lumadue said. “We can increase our response time to complaints or to residents. We don’t have to drive around and look for them; we can see them now.”
And for the most part, they like what they see. Compared to other large municipalities in Erie County, Cheektowaga’s Highway Department is ahead of the game.
The times have changed for the Highway Department, and they’re changing for the better. Cheektowaga now has a Highway Department that swears by its residents’ best interests, a team who plans to accomplish a lot in the shortest stretch possible.
Time is, after all, of the essence – but everything needs its fair share.
“The bottom line is that we’re here to provide a service, and we want to get it done as soon as possible,” Lumadue ended.
If you have any questions or concerns to bring up with the Highway Department, call 686-3450. For more information, visit http://www.tocny.org/Departments/Highway.aspx.
The following are roads Erie County is responsible for in Cheektowaga:
Aero Drive, Beach Road, Bennett Road, Borden Road, Cayuga Road, Cayuga Creek Road, Century Road, Cleveland Drive, Como Park Boulevard, Dick Road, Dingens Street, Eggert Road (Cheektowaga maintains the eastside of Eggert between East Delevan and Doat), French Road, George Urban Boulevard, Holtz Drive, Indian Road, Kensington Avenue, Losson Road, Maryvale Drive, Pine Ridge Road, Rowley Road, and William Street
The following are highways New York State is responsible for in Cheektowaga:
Broadway, Clinton Street, Genesee Street, Harlem Road, Kensington Expressway, Transit Road, Union Road, Walden Avenue