2011 Public Servants of the Year: Southold, Greenport highway crews

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO In a scene all too familiar last year, a town highway department plow heads east on Main Road in Cutchogue toward another snow-filled street.

The miserable weather of 2011, from the blizzard-filled winter to the rage of Tropical Storm Irene, would have been much worse if it weren’t for the dedication of the Southold and Greenport highway department workers.

For their untiring effort, long shifts and backbreaking work all winter, and for their rapid response to clearing the roads in the wake of the Aug. 28 storm, we’re pleased to name the usually unsung employees on both crews our Public Servants of the Year.

“I think it is high time that the people on the front line of keeping our roads safe, clean and free of debris be recognized for their efforts on behalf of our community,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “Given the snow we had last winter and the reports I had gotten reports on the poor condition of the roads in other towns — yet in Southold we were inundated with compliments of the great condition of our roads — it is clear that we have a highway department second to none. From the mechanics that keep the fleet running to the drivers who push the snow and debris, our highway department is the best there is.”

Mattituck Chamber of Commerce president Donielle Cardinale agreed.

“I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the highway department on behalf of the chamber and all of our members,” she said. “Without all of their diligence and hour upon hour of hard work, none of us would have been able operate our businesses and serve the community.”

Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce described the cooperation between the village and town highway departments as “fantastic.”

“We stored sand and salt at their yard and they plowed some of our roads,” Mr. Nyce said. “It’s very helpful for both crews.”

Mr. Nyce said parking in the downtown area last winter was made possible because of the village highway department’s hard work. Not only did workers plow the area, he said, they removed the snow in order to open up parking spaces.

“They planned well, worked incredible hours and when the chips were down the crews did a spectacular job,” said the mayor.

“We were able to stay in business,” said Joe Corso, president of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce and the operator of the Peconic Retreat home for adults in Cutchogue. “I know they get out there very early. In middle of the night when we were all sleeping and our businesses were all tucked away, they’re working. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when it’s time to open, the roads are clear.

“Sometimes they worked 36- to 40-hour shifts just to keep everything clear for everybody,” he added. “It’s more a safety issue than anything else.”

Mr. Corso said the town and village highway crews are also helpful to the community year-round. He said his brother recently undertook a cleanup on Manhanset Avenue outside the village in Greenport and a highway crew picked up the bags of garbage within hours.

“I find them to be an efficient group,” he said. “The last windstorm we had, at 3:30 a.m., they get a call and have to go out and start clearing trees. It doesn’t matter what time of day, they send somebody out there to take care of it. People don’t recognize that. They think this stuff disappears on its own. That said, I’m hoping that this winter isn’t like last winter and I bet they’re feeling the same way.”

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