Superintendent of Highways Fred Perrine and the Town of Sweden Highway Department

Mary S. Yamin-Garone

Fred Perrine is a self-proclaimed procrastinator except when it comes to his job as highway superintendent for the Town of Sweden. Then he is all business.

This down-to-earth farm boy is more than a dedicated and hard-working leader. He is part of the crew.

“The way Fred is with his employees is fabulous. He is one of the guys who you can talk to. You can joke around with him, yet he still maintains that authority that lets you know he’s the boss,” said one staff member.

Perrine was appointed chief caretaker of the town’s 86 miles of roadway in March 2002. Prior to that he spent 23 years with the Village of Brockport’s Department of Public Works that included eight years as foreman and one year as assistant superintendent before being promoted to superintendent — a post he held for five years.

So why the change? In a word — people!

“With almost 25 years of experience in the public works field I take great pride in personally dealing with residents’ concerns,” admitted Perrine. “I take satisfaction in looking for solutions to an individual’s problems. As a highway superintendent — and public works superintendent before this — I am able to use or access resources that most people don’t know are available. In both jobs you deal extensively with the public. I enjoy doing that.”

Perrine is no stranger to the Town of Sweden. A native of LaDue Road, he graduated from Brockport High School in 1976. He now resides on Frazier Street in the Village of Brockport with his wife, Debbie, and their two children, Erick, 14, and Kelsey, 12. Perrine is a member of the Monroe County Town Highway Superintendent’s Association and the Monroe County Stormwater Coalition and is active with the Village of Webster in promoting and staging the Western New York Village Superintendents Show. During his off-hours he can be found camping or perfecting his golf game.

Change Brings Challenges

Perrine’s first year at the helm was not without its challenges. Removing the 135 inches of snow — approximately 40 inches above normal — topped the list.

“In my years with the Village of Brockport we were used to occasionally moving large quantities of snow on village streets. I was not used to plowing the township’s wide open and drifting areas,” recalled Perrine. “In the village a once-a-day removal would keep the streets clear. Here, with the blowing and drifting snow, it is an ’round-the-clock effort.”

Another challenge for Perrine and his crew was completing the community center parking lot. “The community center was being dedicated on June 9, and we had experienced horrendous amounts of rainfall all spring. We managed to get the parking lot stoned but not paved in time for the dedication. The paving was completed one week later.”

Challenges such as the parking lot bring Perrine some of his greatest pleasure. “Seeing the successful completion of a project from start to finish is my favorite part of the job,” he confessed. “That and helping residents with their specific concerns.”

When all is said and done, Perrine would like to be remembered, “for doing the best that I could. I don’t think I am unique in that goal. I think the majority of people have been instilled with a personal pride that drives them and keeps them moving forward to meet their personal expectations.”

Perrine’s term ends at the end of 2003. He will run for re-election this fall.

Myriad Responsibilities

The Town of Sweden Highway Department handles a broad scope of responsibilities. During the winter months, the staff plows 31 miles of town road, 35 miles of county road and another 21 miles of state-owned road. That translates into five plowing routes that take three hours to complete.

Throughout the summer, crews are busy repairing catch basins, manholes, sanitary and storm sewer lines; paving, blacktopping and sealing roads; constructing new roads; replacing culvert pipe and ditching; and performing roadside mowing and trimming. In the fall a leaf pickup is conducted for all town residents outside of the Village of Brockport and the spring features an annual trash pickup and brush collection.

Another unique function of the town’s highway department is that it operates and maintains the village cemetery. The staff is responsible for the cemetery’s day-to-day operation, including mowing, trimming, overseeing the groundskeepers and selling plots.

If that’s not enough Perrine and his staff are actively involved in the development of the Town Park. Upon completion, the highway department will be responsible for the maintenance, upkeep and mowing of the park’s 156 acres. The project includes six little league fields, four soccer fields, a skateboard area, playground, pond, a concession stand and restroom facilities.

Perrine relies on his staff of 13 full-time and three part-time employees to serve Sweden’s 14,000 residents. Staff includes Keith Beadle, deputy superintendent; Dan Kepler, working foreman; Phil Bailey, Brian Ingraham, Dick Lane, Colin Martin, Bill Streb and Ken Warren, HEOs; Gary Chapman, MEO; Keith Taif, mechanic; Shaun Castle and Todd Swan, laborers; Phil Herzog and Seann Eagan, seasonal laborers; and Everett Peake, morning worker.

Under Perrine’s watchful eye the Town of Sweden highway department manages on a total operating budget of $1.1 million. This includes $985,000 for highway, $22,000 for sewer, $20,000 for parks, $65,000 for maintaining the village cemetery and an annual CHIPS allocation of $30,000.

To offset recent cuts in state and federal funding, “We generate extra revenue by mowing and maintaining the county roads,” explained Perrine. “The work is reimbursed by Monroe County. Most years we are paid to make three mowing passes. This year the county — like everyone else — is trimming us back [no pun intended] to two.”

To get the job done the department boasts an impressive fleet of equipment that consists of:

• 10 wheel dump trucks: a 2003 Sterling LT9511, 2001 Freightliner, 1998 Freightliner, 1986 Ford F-9000, 1992 Autocar and a 1973 Ford 880;

• six wheel dump trucks: a 1999 GMC & 1991 International;

• 1-ton dump trucks: a 2002 Ford F550, 2003 Ford F450 and a 1983 Ford 350;

• 1997 Ford 555E backhoe;

• 1991 Case 595 trailer;

• 2003 Case wheel loader 721D;

• 1995 Caterpillar wheel loader 938F;

• 1982 International TD15 bulldozer;

• 1999 Caterpillar D5c bulldozer;

• 1999 Hyundai crawler excavator 250-C;

• 1983 John Deere 670A grader;

• 2001 Hyundai R. T. excavator;

• various other small equipment, trucks and mowing apparatus; and

• a Flow Boy trailer is leased as needed.

Drivers and operators are responsible for performing the majority of the preventative maintenance on the vehicles and equipment themselves. The department’s mechanic handles major repairs. While the department has no pressing need for new equipment, Perrine hopes to add a street sweeper and grapple for brush collection soon.

The headquarters consists of a main building, which houses an office and break room, a three-bay maintenance area and a six-bay truck area. Two additional buildings house overflow equipment and road maintenance signs.

A Little History

The Town of Sweden was born on the evening of April 5, 1814, during a town meeting at the home of Reuben Stickney, on the corner of Lake and Swamp Roads. The meeting was held in accordance with the April 1813 state legislature-enacted bill that required the large township of Genesee County to be split into three new towns named Bergen, Sweden and Murray. Although the official founding date was 1814 settlers inhabited the town before 1806.

Sweden, Township 3 of the Triangular Tract, was incorporated in 1814. At that time it included the Town of Clarendon in Orleans County. The Triangular Tract lies between the Phelps and Gorham Purchase and the Holland Purchase on the west. Originally owned by Robert Morris, it was purchased in 1801 by LeRoy, Boyard and Everts of New York City. Later that same year, Richard Stoddard surveyed and laid it out into lots. In 1802, Lake Road was opened from LeRoy to Lake Ontario, allowing for access and purchasing of lots.

In 1823, the development of the Erie Canal created a stopping point as the canal ended in Sweden. Farming flourished in the area with such crops as wheat, corn and hops. The canal access allowed for easy shipping of these commodities and for receiving supplies.

The Baptist Collegiate Institute was founded in 1832-33, bringing higher education to the town and the nearby village of Brockport. That same year the first fire company was created. In 1845, the town was boasting a variety of other businesses including the Monroe Publishing Company, a national subscription service, the Schafer Shoe Factory and the Capen Piano Works.

The 1850s to the 1860s were a prosperous time for the town. The New York Central Falls Line railroad transported milk to Buffalo and large wheat crops to Rochester, Buffalo and Niagara Falls. There were several farming industries in the area, including the Johnston Harvester Co. and the Seymour Morgan and Allen Co., which invented the Morgan Reaper, an improvement on the McCormick Reaper, which also was manufactured in Sweden.

Following the Civil War the Baptist Collegiate Institute became the Brockport Normal School and included a school for the high school age children in the area. The first parochial school, Nativity, was created in 1876. In 1924, the rural schools in the area were consolidated into the Brockport Central High School District, the first such consolidation in Monroe County.

In the 1900s, the Daily Canning Co. began manufacturing jams and jellies. This later became the Daily Wheat Co. and later still, the A & P Co., then Kleen Brite. In 1912, an area water system was constructed that drew its water from Lake Ontario. It is still operational today.

In 1929, despite the Great Depression, the town continued to prosper. The Button Factory was built, the Brockport Hospital, situated in the Manley-Schaffer house on South Main Street, became the Lakeside Memorial Hospital and the “Prose and Poetry Series,” published by Singer Co., was compiled by Fanny Avery of Brockport. Most school children used these books until the 1950s.

The next growth spurt occurred during the 1950s and 1960s. Lakeside Memorial Hospital was erected at its present site on West Avenue, construction began on a local airport on Colby Street (dedicated in 1988 as a relief airport for Rochester small aircraft), Owens Illinois built a plant and a quarry began on Swamp Road. In the late ’60s Brockport College expanded and the first housing development — Sweden Village — began and a new municipal building for the town and village was constructed on State Street. This remains the Sweden Town Hall today.

The 1980s brought more growth and expansion with the building of the Sweden Senior Center, Wegmans Plaza (rebuilt in 1989) and the creation of several apartment complexes and shopping malls as businesses continued to creep south on Lake Road. Because so many houses were built on farms, agricultural districts were formed to protect the farmland. Farming continues to be an important industry with numerous fruit and vegetable farms still thriving today.

Sweden also is a college town situated on the Erie Canal with two operating lift bridges, eleven active churches, two libraries (the Seymour Library and the Drake Library at the college), a small community-based symphony, five volunteer fire companies, six cemeteries, a Village Police Department, a share of Northampton County Park, a senior retirement complex (Royal Gardens) and three museums.

Today, the town is focusing once again on the Erie Canal. Significant restoration is being done on the canal’s walls and banks. Plans are being made to capitalize on the area’s historical significance and to attract tourism. P

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