Superintendent Scott Gallerie and the Rensselaer County Highway Department

Mary Yamin-Garone

It doesn’t take long to realize that Scott Gallerie — former Army National Guardsman turned county highway superintendent — means business. Obviously a man comfortable in his own skin, Scott handles himself with confidence and ease as he tells of his journey to this job.

“I joined the Guard when I was 17 and was on active duty for 21 years before retiring in 1999. Later that year I ran — and was elected — highway superintendent for the town of Nassau. I held that post until November of 2006 before going to work for a private start-up firm for about 18 months. That’s when I was approached by the county engineer and asked to consider an appointment as the Rensselaer County highway superintendent. Years before that, however, I had developed an interest in the job when I performed volunteer work on the town of Nassau’s highway committee. I was convinced that this job would be a good fit for me so in April 2008, I gratefully accepted.”

Scott credits his military service and his tenure with the town of Nassau for preparing him for his current post.

“My jobs with the Guard required me to plan, budget and organize, all essential skills for any highway superintendent. As head of the Nassau highway department I mastered the technical skills from the Local Roads Program. I spent a lot of time with other superintendents learning the most cost-effective way of doing things. Even though my work with the town was on a smaller scale (100,000+ residents versus 6,500), the approach is pretty much the same. I also draw on my people skills from the military.”

A native of the town of Poestenkill, Scott earned an associate’s degree in science from Empire State College, attended Officer Candidate School, took U.S. Army Infantry Officers basic and advanced courses while on active duty and graduated from the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Services and Staff School, a derivative of the Harvard Business School.

Married to his wife, Andrea, for 18 years, they have three children: Christopher, 26; Jessica, 17; and Scott Jr., 13. He is the commander of the Sergeant Walter A. Adams American Legion Post in Averill Park; chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Hoags Corners Fire District in East Nassau; and secretary of the Rensselaer County Association of Town Superintendents of Highways.

In his spare time this super likes to rehab old buildings and ride BMW motorcycles.

“I’ve owned two airheads and an oilhead. The attraction for me is that they are the last manufacturer to make an air-cooled horizontal motor design in 1935. My father used to ride them competitively so I got hooked on them. I don’t have much time to ride these days. There are a number of highway superintendents in the county who ride and we get together from time to time.”

When asked about retirement, Scott says he likes things the way they are … for now.

“I retired for the first time when I was 38 after serving with the New York State Army National Guard. Ideally, I’d like to work for roughly another 10 years. At that point, my wife and I would like to split our time between our home here and our condominium in St. Petersburg, Florida. I could stand to hang out on the beach or the golf course for the cold winter months.”

All About the Job

One garage isn’t enough for this highway department. Instead, it has five spread out across the county.

“The main garage in the town of North Greenbush has offices for the superintendent, the county engineer and the deputy engineer, the deputy engineer for administration, the county code enforcement officer, the accounts clerk and the county engineer’s secretary. There’s also a 10-bay maintenance and welding shop and garage space for the main garage crew,” said Scott.

The Berlin division has a five-bay steel building and a small salt shed. The Cropseyville headquarters, located on the border of the towns of Brunswick and Grafton, also has a five-bay steel, wooden, unheated garage and a fairly new salt shed. The site of the Schodack office is an old lumber company retail store with a six-bay garage and a new salt shed located on State Route 9 in the town of Schodack. Finally, the Spicer Road division is a five bay steel building with a new salt shed just off State Route 7.

“Each garage has its own salt shed. Berlin’s is the original and only holds about 500 tons. The other four are newer and have 2,500-ton capacities. They also have pressure treated concrete on bases that have drainage. The drains carry the salt slurry to make sure it doesn’t migrate away from the salt shed or contaminate the neighbor’s well and the salt brine is contained so it doesn’t runoff into local wetlands or streams.”

As highway superintendent Scott is responsible for maintaining the county’s 659.66 lane miles of road, all of which are paved. That converts into 22 plowing routes that take about three hours to complete.

“I don’t mind the snow as much as the ice. You start trying to plan for it [ice] for days and it ends up dominating your time and the cleanup is atrocious. It’s expensive, time consuming and sometimes takes months to complete. It took us most of the summer of 2009 to clean up from the 2008 ice storm. That can really set you back.

“In terms of a typical snowfall you don’t have to put a lot of material down. You’re out there plowing through the storm. You put a little sand and salt on the hills and at the end you put a good amount of salt down and the roads clean up.”

Scott’s crew of 57 full-time and 16 part-time employees help him serve the county’s 155,541 residents. Main headquarters is staffed by Supervisor II Christopher Bradley; Working Supervisors Gordon Shepard and Luke Reiter; MEOHs Richard Doyle, John Reynolds, Dean Winn and John Palermo; and MEOLs Tom McBain, Michael Lindell, Keith Gutbrodt and Jerry Simon. Schodack staff includes Supervisor II Joseph Lamica; Working Supervisor Chris Eaton; MEOHs Thomas Schreiner and Rocco Giacomino; MEOLs David Webb, Gordon Lebrecht and Daniel Holmes; and laborer Jason Hickling.

The Berlin location is manned by Supervisor II Donald Hoffman; Working Supervisor Leonard Nicpon; and MEOLs Keith Hull, Jamie Brundige, Michael Mattison, David Shuhart and Walter Bink. Hoosick headquarters is staffed by Supervisor II Donald Heaphy; Working Supervisor Richard Hunt; MEOHs Tracy Mason, Bruce Rowland and Matthew Harris; MEOLs Arthur Rose, Kenneth Eldred, Frederick Backus and James Beaudry; and laborer Theron O’Dell.

Cropseyville employees include Supervisor II Charles Ballard; Working Supervisor Donald Pfeiffer; MEOHs Timothy Brock and Dean Brownell; MEOLs Edward Palitsch and Leonard Harris; and laborer William Reynolds. Mechanics serving all branches are Senior Auto Mechanic John Knaupp; Highway Dispatcher Thomas Fiffe; Welder-Mechanic James Boyce; and Mechanics Brian Beaudoin, George Bedford, Joseph Elting and Jeffrey Romano.

“My staff makes coming to work worthwhile just to see their level of experience and dedication,” Scott boasted. “That’s one of the strengths this department brings to its residents. I’ve seen these guys do some amazing stuff when the chips are down.”

Under Scott’s direction, the Rensselaer County highway department runs on a total operating budget of $11.3 million that includes salaries and benefits for employees and an annual CHIPS allocation of $1.9 million.

Currently, the department has no plans to upgrade its equipment.

“We are in a holding pattern right now because of the economy. All county departments were required to downsize their budgets this year so we are deferring all purchases until 2012 and then it will be done with a series of short-term bonds. Generally we do bond so we don’t have to come up with the upfront capital. Instead of purchasing one piece of equipment at a time, we wait and then bond for a bigger group. The benefit to that is we’re not laying out a lot of cash. The downside is our fleet ages out at the same time. Our long-term, 10-year plan is to eventually go to cash purchases. If we do that we can replace vehicles on a rotating basis and save on the interest.”

Scott credits technology for making vehicles more efficient and user-friendly and allowing the county to save money.

“All our main plow trucks were retrofitted with computers about seven years ago and they have paid for themselves repeatedly just with the materials we’ve saved. This is especially important in light of the fact that the price of road salt has nearly doubled in this region over the last five years. The new trucks are easier to operate although many of our long-time employees feel they may not last as long as their predecessors because of the amount of electrical gear that is susceptible to the effects of salt and corrosion.

“In this age of instant communication I also find myself carrying more technology on my belt than we used to have available to us in a whole company. One of the biggest changes is the increase in communications between government entities and the people they serve. There is considerably more openness and public access than there was 20 years ago.”

It’s not just the equipment that’s changed. The highway superintendent’s job has, too.

“Including my seven years as a town superintendent, I think the biggest change is that you have to be focused on your resources more than ever. I joked when I returned to the county after working in the private sector that ‘it was a bad time to be a municipality.’ Little did I know how right I was. With the downturn in the economy, we’ve seen businesses close and “For Sale” signs pop up in front of houses everywhere. Although it takes a while to trickle into government, the economy has made us really sharpen our pencils and try and be more productive with fewer resources.”

Every job has good days and bad. For Scott, a good day is when he can look around and all that he and his staff have accomplished as well as receiving positive feedback from the traveling public.

When asked about his worst day, Scott is quick to answer — July 29, 2009.

“It was the day we almost lost Stephentown. Seven inches of rain fell in eight hours. There was massive flooding and bridges and roads were lost. I can tell you it was a bad day. I remember sitting in the Stephentown Operations Center with people from SEMO (State Emergency Management Office). We were in the firehouse and it was raining so hard that the water was lying across State Route 43 about one to two feet deep and it was coming up to the firehouse level. The rain would stop and the water would recede a little.

“About one-quarter mile of County Route 27 in south Stephentown was taken out. There was an eight-foot hole where is used to be. There was so much water that it turned into a riverbed. It took the pavement … everything. We also lost the road leading up to the County Route 31 Bridge.”

Scott, his crews from all five garages as well as county personnel pulled together, working through the night and the next day.

“Superintendents from towns that weren’t even affected were there on the weekends helping out. Everyone did what they had to do. The road was replaced first while the bridges were closed for a while longer. We were cleaning up right into November before things were in pretty good shape.”

The cost of that cleanup didn’t come cheap.

“We suffered $2.5 million in damages and the county received no federal or state support,” Scott recalled. “We cancelled the rest of our paving projects and switched the money to buy culverts and concrete. There was one large culvert that would have cost $225,000 for a contractor to replace it. Instead, for $20,000, we cut out the bottom and inserted a new, concrete one that will last at least for another 10 years. A lot of Yankee ingenuity. Even though it was a bad day it made everybody pull together.”

When they aren’t dealing with disasters, Scott and his crew stay busy resurfacing roads and replacing bridges.

“Our goal is to have all our pavement condition codes at least at a six on a scale of one to ten by 2012. This year we’ll be replacing the Wyomanock Road Bridge and doing a major rehab of the bridge on Nassau-Averill Park Road. We’ll also be replacing the Eastern Union Turnpike Bridge in Sand Lake and the County Route 26 Bridge in Stephentown as federal aid projects.

“After that the Johnsville and Elm Street Bridges will be replaced and we’re planning a significant upgrade on Best Road (County Route 55), which has become a critical transportation link in the southern part of the county due to the state’s reconstruction of Exit 8 off Interstate 90 to make access to Rensselaer County easier.”

When Scott passes the baton to his successor he would like to be remembered as “the guy that organized and resourced the Rensselaer County highway department and put it on the path to the future. Hopefully, I will be remembered fondly by our own employees and the citizens we serve. They are why I do this job.”

About Rensselaer County

Rensselaer County’s history is a mirror image of American history. Within its borders the battle of Bennington was fought; Anti-Rent wars began; and the Industrial Revolution was born. Prior to the arrival of the Dutch in the early 1600s, Rensselaer County had been occupied by Indians for thousands of years. Although there are no remains of their villages or battlegrounds, many “Indian Heads” have been found along the streams running through the county’s high grounds. The only site left from these times is the Knickerbacker Mansion in Schaghticoke. In 1676, Governor Andros and the Chiefs of the Mohicans and Schaghticoke Tribes met there to sign treaties and plant trees marking the end of King Philips War. While the trees are no longer living the Mansion still stands.

In 1629, Kilean Van Rensselaer established the feudal manor of Rensselaerwyck. The portion in Rensselaer County was 24 miles long and ran along the Hudson River to include what is now known as Schodack, Nassau, North and East Greenbush, Sand Lake, Grafton, Brunswick, Petersburg, Berlin, Stephentown, Pittstown, Troy and Rensselaer. Fort Craillo, located in the city of Rensselaer, was the early Manor house and where “Yankee Doodle” was composed.

Rensselaer County was situated in the mainstream of events during the 1777 Revolutionary War campaign. The famous Battle of Bennington actually took place in Walloomsac in the town of Hoosick. During this battle almost the entire German force, sent there on order of British General Burgoyne, was captured or killed, thus diminishing British strength and paving the way for the British surrender at Saratoga.

Following the War for Independence, New Englanders began to migrate and settle in Rensselaer County, which was founded in 1791 and named after the first patron, Kilean Van Rensselaer. Two years later, Troy was designated as the county seat.

Born in 1766, “Uncle Sam” Wilson was the seventh son of a family of thirteen. He and his brother walked from their home in Mason, New Hampshire, to Troy in 1789. Prior to coming to Troy, Mr. Wilson served in the Army as a service boy whose duties were to tend livestock, repair fences and the like.

In Troy, he prospered as a meat packer and slaughtered much of the beef and pork consumed there. Among the contractors supplying the Army of the North with provisions during the War of 1812 was Elbert Anderson, who on the first of October that year advertised in the Troy and Albany newspapers for proposals for “Two thousand barrels of prime pork and three hundred barrels of prime beef” to be delivered to him at Waterford, Troy, Albany and New York City in early 1813.

Ebenezer and Samuel Wilson, who then were extensively engaged in slaughtering cattle in the village, contracted to furnish him a quantity of beef “packed in full-bound barrels of white oak.” From time to time they delivered it to the camp at Greenbush, where the soldiers from Troy designated it as “Uncle Sam’s,” implying that it was furnished by Samuel Wilson, who they and other people of the village were accustomed to calling “Uncle Sam.” The other recruits, thinking that the term was applied to the letters U.S. stamped on the barrels by government inspectors of beef, began using the appellation “Uncle Sam” figuratively for the United States.

While in Troy, Mr. Wilson owned the land which is now Prospect Park. On this land, his animals grazed and he obtained the clay that he used in making brick. Not only did Mr. Wilson raise, slaughter, pack beef and manufacture brick, he also ran an orchard, nursery, distillery, general store and operated sloops on the Orange (now Hudson) River.

As for his physical appearance, he was large, well-proportioned and clean shaven. The chin whiskers were added by a contemporary artist because of their era of popularity. In 1962, the U.S. Congress officially recognized Troy as the home of Uncle Sam. In May of 1988, the governor signed legislation marking Wilson’s birthday, September 13, as Uncle Sam Day. A bronze tablet in Oakwood Cemetery marks “Uncle Sam’s” final resting place. Over this peaceful scene fly the stars and stripes maintained by the “Uncle Sam” Council, Boy Scouts of America, Troy, N.Y.

From 1839 to 1850 tenant farmers of the patroon began to contest the right of patrons to maintain a feudal-like manor and began to revolt. To avoid recognition and retaliation, the members of the grassroots organization wore calico disguises resembling Indians. When the sheriff came on behalf of the Van Rensselaer heirs, the tenants refused to let him or his deputies onto their farms. The protest soon spread to a ten county area. In 1850, new laws favoring the tenants over the patrons were enacted, putting an end to the bloodshed. The house of the leader of the Anti-Rent Wars, Dr. Smith Boughton, still stands in Alps in the town of Nassau.

Because of the ideal geographic location of Rensselaer County and the abundant water supply available, the area became a fast leader in the industrial development of the Northeast. During the mid-1900s, the city of Troy became known for its clothing products — collars, cuffs and shirts. The nickname “The Collar City” still is heard today. Troy also became famous for its foundry products, such as stoves, sheet iron and steel, and the precision instruments made by the W. & L. E. Gurley (now known as Teledyne-Gurley).

Rensselaer County played a crucial role in the Civil War, providing the Union Army with machine made horseshoes made at the Burden Iron Works, which was powered by the largest waterwheel in the world. At this plant, 360 horseshoes could be made per minute as opposed to one manmade shoe product in the same time.

Iron plates for the Monitor, the iron clad vessel that was instrumental in the eventual victory of the Union Army over the Confederates, were rolled at the Albany Rolling and Sitting Mill. In 1865, the first steel plant in the country was built at the mouth of the Wynantskill in Troy. In addition, Walter Singer, inventor of the famous sewing machine, was born in Johnsonville and Walter Wood from Hoosick Falls was instrumental in developing the manufacturing of harvesting equipment.

Many of these old industries are gone but they have been replaced by others who have come to rely on the highly skilled workforce available in Rensselaer County. Today, Rensselaer County is becoming a fast leader in high technology, playing home to the Rensselaer County Technology Park in the town of North Greenbush.

Rensselaer County also is home to a number of distinguished institutions of higher education. One major advantage for a business that locates here is the proximity of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), one of the premier science and technology universities in the world, Russell Sage College, one of the nation’s first colleges for women, and Hudson Valley Community College, a member of the State University of New York system and a nationally ranked community college.

Numerous other colleges and universities throughout the Capital Region fortify the area’s educational base, including Union College, Siena College, The College of St. Rose, Albany Medical College (associated with Albany Medical Center), Albany Law School and Albany College of Pharmacy.

Stretching for 30 miles along the scenic and historic Hudson River, Rensselaer County boasts thousands of acres of parks, miles of hiking and walking trails and scores of lakes and ponds. Community playgrounds, bike paths, recreational fields and nature trails, ice skating arenas, cross-country ski trails and golf courses highlight the county’s beauty.

Visitors can window shop for unique gifts and exotic finds, explore among wayside country stores and antique dealers for that one-of-a-kind treasure or stop in for coffee at a cozy café or dine outside on the riverfront. Rensselaer County is filled with restaurants, eateries, lunch shops and more, with choices ranging from gourmet to family-friendly to eclectic. The convenience of today alongside the charm of “yesteryear” gives all you could ask for in a shopping and dining experience.

(History courtesy of http://www.renscp.com.) P

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