Superintendent of Public Works Glenn ‘Butch’ McCollum and the Village of Gouverneur

By Sondra Rossi

Glenn “Butch” McCollum is downsizing. Gone will be the dump trucks, backhoes, tractors and plows that currently fill his days, replaced by hunting rifles, fishing rods and golf clubs.

After 36 years of service to the village of Gouverneur, Glenn is scheduled to retire on Nov. 30, 2010. The village may not be losing him entirely, however, as he may stick around the department on a part-time basis for a year or two to help out as needed.

Glenn was hired by the village as an apprentice lineman in 1974, his first job after graduating from high school and receiving electrical training from B.O.C.E.S. (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services). He worked his way up the ladder, filling the roles of HEO, senior HEO and assistant superintendent of pubic works before reaching his current position as supervisor of public works in June 1999.

Glenn’s position is not strictly an administrative job. He gets involved hands-on in all departments that fall under the DPW, including assisting in heavy equipment operations, snow removal or any other area that he can be of help.

“Every day is different; we have a wide variety of tasks to do each week. It’s never boring and even though we’re on call 24/7, when you do get a call, in most cases you know you are doing something useful for other individuals,” Glenn said.

According to Mayor Dorothy Vorce, Glenn is always available to lend a hand.

“In my years as serving as mayor, Glenn has stood out as one of the most attentive and cooperative individuals in the village. He has always been one of our go-to individuals who always attacks and concludes the projects we have given him quickly.

“He is kind and generous and deals with all village employees in the same way that he would like to be treated,” Vorce said.

A Family Affair

Glenn doesn’t get everything done by himself; he has a staff of approximately a dozen, including his wife, Dawn, and his son, Delmer.

“I think it is very important to our team’s morale that they see me out there working with them side by side. I try to never be gruff or unpleasant to anyone in our community, but I particularly make it a point to always be respectful to all of the members of our crew.”

“The job is made easy when you have a great board to work with, tremendous support from somebody like Dawn, a mayor who appreciates what you are trying to do, and an experienced crew who knows exactly what needs to happen without being told.”

Dawn, currently the DPW clerk and safety officer, was hired as a custodian while Glenn was still the senior HEO. They married three years later.

“We have worked together for 15 years as husband and wife, and we worked together as good friends for two years before that. We try to keep our work and home life separate as much as possible. When we are on vacation we don’t talk about work at all. It really has not been a problem, certainly topics of general interest that are work related do come up over the dinner table, but rarely do we discuss anything that would create any stress,” Dawn said.

“When we are at work, we keep appearances and attitudes very professional. There is a line that we never cross once we reach the office. We complement each other well. Glenn knows how to get the projects for the village accomplished, but really does not like paperwork at all, and I love the paperwork and organizational part of my job. We really work well together.”

“Dawn is a major asset to the department,” Glenn added. “She is great at record keeping, has great organizational skills and is a very hard worker. When she is caught up on the office work, it’s not unusual to see her cleaning up around the garage. She handles all of the department’s computer work, record keeping, emails, etc.”

Son Delmer was hired by the village board four years ago as an MEO.

Rounding Out the Crew

Fred Foster, Rick Petrie, Dan Fifield, Terry Simmons, John Washburn and LeRoy Blair also work as MEOs, while Danny Forbes serves as WWTF chief operator and John White II serves as WWTF operator. Earl Measheaw is the WFP senior operator.

Glenn’s other children, daughter Sara Wright and stepson Gregory Painter, work at Darnell Army Community Hospital in Fort Hood, Texas, and AT&T in Cicero, N.Y., respectively.

Power Up

One unique aspect of the department of public works in Gouverneur is that it owns its own hydro electric plant located in the village on the Oswegatchie River.

This hydro-electric plant supplies most of the power for running the village’s municipal building and water treatment plants along with powering all of the village street lights. The plant was built in 1923 and needed very little work or maintenance until recently when new water wheels were installed.

“Glenn oversaw recent improvements that were made to the village’s hydro electric plant.

“The end result of these improvements saw a significant increase in the amount of electricity being generated to the extent that there are now times that we generate surplus power that is sold back to National Grid and is a revenue enhancer for the village,” Vorce said.

Keeping Busy

The village of Gouverneur has a total operating budget of just over a million dollars, including a $64,000 annual CHIPS allocation, to care for its 16.38 lane miles of paved road.

The department also is responsible for maintenance and repair of at least 20 miles of sewer mains, and approximately 20 miles of water mains. There are more than 160 fire hydrants located throughout the village, which the department maintains and repairs.

The department of public works recently cleaned and updated the lagoons of the sewage treatment plant, including the removal of 25 years worth of sediment at the bottom of them.

The lagoons, which were constructed in 1985, have a life expectancy of about 25 years.

A barge was floated in, all fluids were removed from the sludge and solids were shipped to a landfill. At the same time, a new liner was placed in one of the lagoons and the aeration pipes supplying air to the lagoons also were replaced.

Dial-a-Truck

During the summer months, the village provides brush and leaf pick up service.

The Dial-a-Truck program provides a flatbed truck to residents for yard waste removal.

This free service enables residents to dispose of brush, leaves, and other garden waste, in addition to downed trees.

Parks and Recreation

The five parks in the Village — Ames Point, Sandbox Park, the Village Park, Harry Mills Memorial Park and Riverview Park — are all maintained by the DPW. This includes mowing and structure maintenance. Park amenities include a baseball field, basketball courts, boat ramp, horseshoe pits. Pavilion and restrooms at Mills Park and baseball/softball diamonds, a multipurpose field and concession building at Riverview Park.

Location, Location, Location

The village of Gouverneur is located in St. Lawrence County in the far northern part of New York State, less than an hour south of the Canadian border. This rural community has several industries operating in and around it including state correctional facilities and the headquarters and warehouses of a locally founded drug store chain called Kinney Drugs. Industries also include mining, logging, agriculture and paper mills.

Winter Weather Woes

Despite being located in extreme northern New York, Gouverneur is not located near the heavy snow belts and does not typically see the heavy snowfalls associated with the lake effect areas of the state. An average year will see approximately 70 inches of snow.

When Glenn first started with the department, there would need to be six or eight inches of snow on the ground before the trucks would be called out for cleanup. Today, crews hit the three plowing routes as soon as there is the slightest accumulation. They typically start pushing snow at 4 a.m. and continue until 11 p.m., with each loop taking approximately two hours.

To enhance their snow and ice cleanup, a new salt shed recently was completed. The department did the site prep and foundation work and an outside firm constructed the building.Lack of heavy snowfall doesn’t always mean an easy winter, however.

One of the largest catastrophes to ever hit the area during Glenn’s term as superintendent of public works was a 1998 ice storm that knocked out all power to the community for three weeks. After the storm, looking down any given street, all that could be seen was a tunnel formed by the downed trees, power lines and power poles on each side of the street, according to Glenn.

“It was one of those freak storms where the temperature was just right and what started out as a rain storm switched over to freezing temperatures and several inches of ice built up very quickly, taking down any surface that it was attached to,” Glenn said.

Crews worked 12-hour days, seven days a week for nearly a month cleaning up brush, trees, and power lines until power could be restored to the entire village.

“I was very proud of our crew; they performed very well under extreme circumstances. Everyone’s power was out, including their families’, yet they had to work long days and weekends to help the families of our community while their families were at home also in need of their help.”

“The power company set up large generators in town, which allowed us to give our residents some of their basic needs, but it was a very stressful time for everyone,” he added.

Be Prepared

Included in the village of Gouverneur’s equipment fleet is an assortment of dumps, pickups, skid steers, loaders and backhoes from John Deere, Gehl, International, Bobcat, Challenger and Caterpillar.

Equipment that does not receive a lot of use, such as its 1985 Ford utility boom truck, is kept in good working order and they are able to get many years of use out of these specialized machines. At the same time, equipment like the village pickup trucks, plow trucks and rubber-tired loaders that receive nearly constant use are regularly replaced with new equipment, keeping the fleet from aging too dramatically. When possible Glenn likes to purchase off of New York State Contract because of the simplicity of the process.

“[Glenn is] very frugal with the village’s monies and always makes sure that any dollars spent are spent in a way that will get the best results for the village,” Vorce said. The village is very proud of its safety record, including five years without an accident.

“We try to have a safety meeting every month. We really try to drive home the idea of keeping track of each other. At times, we are involved in very dangerous work. Look at your workmates. Are they wearing the proper hard hats, glasses and vests? We try to police each other. Are we using the proper shoring equipment, or the proper confined space gear? We give specific confined space training. This type of approach has worked very effectively for us,” Dawn said.

Glenn also stays on top of new products.

“I try to regularly attend the Cornell Local Roads School every June and I also attend the New York Conference of Mayors each year. That tends to keep me up to speed on anything new that could be coming down the pike. Both of these events offer well informed speakers and exhibits from companies that offer new products that we should be taking a look at, as well as providing me with contact hours needed to maintain my Grade D water operators license,” he said.

About the Village of Gouverneur

The village is named after Gouverneur Morris, one of the authors of the Constitution of the United States, as well as a prominent landowner and part-time resident of the area.

The community is nicknamed the “Marble City” because of the many structures made from marble and the importance of marble in the early economy. Gouverneur Morris, his relative Samuel Ogden and partner William Constable were all early landowners in northern New York, and Morris established a summer home in the town. Mining the local marble was one of the first big industries in the area. Later, mining talc and zinc became important.

The village of Gouverneur was incorporated in 1850.

Notable Residents

• Edward John Noble, co-founder of the Life Savers Corporation in 1913, was born in Gouverneur.

• Dede Scozzafava, New York State Assemblywoman and former mayor and village trustee of Gouverneur.

• Thomas Pangle, who holds the Joe R. Long Chair in Democratic Studies at the University of Texas and is the author of numerous books.

• Burt Orrin Kinney, founder of Kinney Drugs

• Brian Leonard, of the Cincinnati Bengals. Leonard is well known for jumping over would-be tackles. This hurdle has been dubbed the “Leonard Leap.”

Historical information was obtained from Wikipedia.org. P

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