Highway Superintendent Doug Eddy and the Town of Brunswick

Doug Eddy grew up on his family’s farm in Johnsonville, in the town of Pittstown.

“We were a typical family,” said Doug. “We raised everything from beef cows to chickens, sheep, pigs, even hamsters. I can remember my mother butchering the chickens and then we’d have to pluck the feathers and she’d hang them on the clothesline. My father worked nights at St. Regis Paper Company. He’d come home and mow a field of hay. He’d catch a few hours of sleep, go to work and come home and rake the hay. We didn’t have all the modern equipment. We just had a mowing machine, a rake and a baler. Times were tough. I had four brothers. Three were older. Two went to Vietnam and one served in Korea. Quite a time growing up like that. It was different then. You had to wait on pins and needles. My mother waiting for another letter but they all came back.”

Years later, Doug is still a country boy at heart.

“I go up to the farm every weekend and brush hog and maintain it. We don’t have the animals to chew the grass anymore. We go up in the fall and hunt. Maybe after I retire we’ll go back up and I’ll start raising cows again.”

Doug attended the State University of New York at Cobleskill where he majored in agricultural engineering.

“During my college years I drove a truck for a small, private company called Hoosick Valley Asphalt. After graduation I continued working construction for them. In 1978, the company was bought out by Peckham Industries. I worked there until 1996 when I changed jobs. I went to the Midland Asphalt Company and operated their first prototype NovaChip paver.

“In 1997, I was approached by a local farmer friend who had intentions of running for town supervisor. He asked if I would consider the highway superintendent’s position. I was working out of town a lot and had two young boys at home. I was missing out on their Little League games and things like that. I wanted to get closer to home. Phil Herrington was elected town supervisor in 1998 and in 1999, I became the highway superintendent. Little did I know at that time that it would be the hardest job of my career. We were faced with a union that had gone without a contract for four years and a lot of worn out equipment.”

This seven-term superintendent credits his pre-highway department years working on roads for helping him do his job well.

“My equipment background has helped me a lot, too. I bought numerous pieces of equipment around here. Being part mechanic you have to make decisions whether to fix this or save that or get rid of it. When I came here we didn’t have much. We had tired iron.”

Doug and his wife, Manette, have been married for 29 years. She’s a computer software analyst for the New York State Unified Court System. Son Kyle, 26, is a landscaping architect and Shawn, 22, is a senior at Plattsburgh majoring in broadcast communications. Doug has been treasurer of the Rensselaer County Association of Town Superintendents for 16 years and participates in its scholarship program. He’s also an annual attendee at the Cornell Highway School.

When the time comes for Doug to turn over the superintendent’s reins to his successor how would he like to be remembered?

“As someone who always gave a fair and honest opinion, whether they agreed with me or not. I also did the job to the best of my ability.”

Wife, Manette, believes he has already done that time and time again.

“Even though the highway superintendent position is demanding, I think Doug is doing a great job. He truly cares about the town where he lives and raised his family. We enjoy being part of the Brunswick community. I’m also proud of the work he does. I know the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. Doug takes his job very seriously and is conscious of keeping spending down. After all, we’re taxpayers, too!”

About the Job

The highway department’s facilities consist of an upper and lower garage.

“Our snowplows are housed in both of them. The upper one has nine bays. The other has five and also serves as the mechanics’ garage. That’s where we store our bulk oil, welders and cutters and do all our repair work. The building up here was built for storing equipment. We’ve been in it about eight years now. There’s also a ‘green’ building that houses our recycling department,” Doug said.

The department also boasts a new salt shed. Constructed in 2012, it holds 4,000 yards of salt and sand.

“We mix out here in the rural areas. The state is all straight salt and calcium while the county is quite heavy on more salt than sand. Unfortunately, at the end of the winter you have to pick up all your sand. I probably gathered up about 1,500 yards of it this spring. We save quite a bit of money by doing it. You don’t look like the best person on the block when the other roads get bare before yours. We’re old-fashioned. That’s part of my problem with these jobs. In the old days, we never asked anyone for anything. We’d go out in the culvert that was plugged out front and we'd take a shovel and clean it out ourselves. We’re from a different era.”

As the highway department’s “commander in chief,” Doug is in charge of keeping up the town’s 225 lane miles of road; seven of which are gravel and three belong to Rensselaer County. That translates into 16 plowing routes that take about three hours to complete.

“This spring we finally got a better snowplow ordinance program. Now we can go out and ticket [vehicles] at four o’clock in the morning if they’re in our way. We never enforced the original law. It said you must have four inches [of snow]. Four inches? You still have to go out and plow the same roads with two inches. You have trucks going like a mouse through a maze with plow wings on them. It’s tough. Some roads are narrow. The difficult part is you don’t want to fill out accident reports for the guys getting hurt and you don’t want to be hitting cars. It’s a balance.”

In spite of the obstacles and challenges winter presents, Doug is quick to admit that clearing the roads is the most important part of the job.

“The highway department is geared to plow snow. Residents don’t care what happens during the summer. The most important part of this job is to clear the roads so residents can get out of their driveways in winter. It’s important for us, too. You can’t be sick in the winter. You can hire someone to come in and do your paving or your drainage work but the highway guys know their routes. They know where that manhole cover sticks up.”

Doug’s 18-member crew help serve the town’s 11,941 residents. His staff includes Dan Dougherty (deputy superintendent); Kevin Anders (HEO); Philip Arnold (mechanic); Joe Dawson (HEO); James DelSanto (mechanic/welder); Robert Duncan (laborer); Bill Harris (HEO); Robert Hayner (HEO); Kevin Herrington (laborer); Brandon Hill (HEO); Gordon Kneer (mechanic); Ed O'Donnell (general foreman); Rodney Rodgers (laborer); Gill Roscoe (HEO); Terry Scriven (LEO); Randy Southwick (mechanic/welder); Ray Wilson (HEO); and Ned Zareski (HEO/working foreman). Three members of the town’s Water Department also work with Doug’s crew: Wayne Savage (general foreman); Michael Mason (HEO/working foreman); and Charles Saunders (laborer).

“We all work together. They plow snow and if they need a truck we help them.”

Doug knows the importance of having a good and loyal staff. He also believes in tough love.

“I tell my crew every day that we’re not here for a good time. We’re here to do a job. I told them from Day One that there’s nothing I would ask my crew to do that I wouldn’t do myself.”

Under Doug’s conscientious eye, the town of Brunswick’s highway department runs on a total operating budget of $2,100,100 that includes salaries and benefits for employees and an annual CHIPS allocation of $209,969.

To help with its daily operation the department uses an armada of equipment and who maintains all that equipment?

“The mechanics fix any problems we have. With a 60-plus fleet they’re very busy. The drivers are responsible for checking the fluids, directionals and other standard stuff.”

Doug earmarks $156,000 each year for purchasing new equipment.

“Over the years I’ve purchased 40 vehicles. The first truck I bought in 2000 was a six-wheel dump truck with a sander body and everything in it. It cost $100,000. Today, that same truck will set you back $180,000. I’m trying to fix up some of our old trucks. We’re trying to do some repair work and save them.”

Doug admits that technology makes repair work more challenging than it once was.

Technology also has changed how the highway superintendent does his job.

“It’s changed it a lot starting with the computers. Now we’re always looking at the weather. We have Intellicast weather and some other things we bring up to try and get a good grip so we can figure out the snowstorms. I’m all about planning, so I want to know if something’s happening the next day. Sometimes you get burnt. Knowing the weather also allows us to plan ahead when it comes to paving. All the maintenance and inspection schedules for the vehicles are computerized, too.”

In addition to its regular duties the highway department is responsible for maintaining the town’s athletic fields, community center and town park.

Looking back, one of the highlights of the job thus far for Doug was purchasing a paver.

“Now we can do all our own paving and save money in the process. I also implemented a monthly brush/yard waste pickup for the residents.”

Like most highway superintendents, Doug finds doing more with less to be the most challenging part of his job.

“A limited source of income makes it hard to keep our equipment up-to-date. The life expectancy of a snowplow is about 10 years and we’re getting past that. How do towns keep up? Maintaining and trying to fix the old vehicles and keep them in good condition also is a challenge.”

What does the future hold for this highway department?

“We’re gearing up for a bridge replacement job on White Church Road. The design work is complete and it will go out to bid this fall. It’s scheduled for a full replacement next year. This year also seems to be the year that all these metal culverts in the ground are coming to life. We do the replacements ourselves and some of them are big.”

If he were to look through a crystal ball, what else would Doug see on the horizon?

“A new highway garage so all our equipment could be stored under cover. A 200 foot by 100 foot wide facility would be perfect.”

About the Town of Brunswick

The first settlement in Brunswick dates back to 1711 to 1715 at Haynersville. According to the records, Haynersville was first called simply “Hosek Road.” This referred to the public manor road that went north from the manor along the east side of the Hudson to where Troy is now, and then turned east across the area to Hoosick on the Vermont border (the latter half of the road is today's Route 7, and is still known as Hoosick Road).

The Hoosick Road was a vital link to the then frontier settlement at Hoosick (settled in 1688), and which formed a link to both Bennington, Vermont and Williamstown, Massachusetts. Until the 1790s, the government at Albany claimed Vermont, and its only practical connection to Vermont was by the Hoosick Road.

German Palatines had settled in Livingston’s Manor, south of Rensselaer’s Manor. Many of these were volunteers during Queen Anne’s War in an expedition against Canada in 1711, led locally by Peter Schuyler, “and several finding the country north of them pleasant and desirable, determined, so soon as convenient after their return and discharge, to locate there.”

The present territory of Brunswick was initially a part of the town of Troy. Troy had been organized as a town in 1791. The growing importance of the prospective city, and its requirements led to a separation of Troy from its rural parts: today’s Brunswick and Grafton.

The first town meeting was held at the house of Nathan Betts, a local innkeeper, and continued taking place there for another year. The first town supervisor was Flores Bancker, who held the office from 1807 until 1809. The first town clerk was Daniel Wager, who served for one year. The first three justices of the peace were Robert McChesney, Daniel Wagar, and John McManus. In pursuance of laws enacted under the constitution of 1821, justices of the peace were chosen at the general elections or were appointed by the courts. The election of justices at town meetings began in 1831.

The town did not develop quickly under the manorial system. Although agriculturally productive, since residents did not own the land, there was little incentive to develop properties. That changed after the collapse of Rensselaerswyck in the 1840s

One short term historical figure was Herman Melville, who in 1840 had been residing with his mother in Lansingburgh, but who taught for a half year at a one room schoolhouse in Brunswick. Little documentation exists on who took part in the War of 1812. There was significantly more interest in fighting during the Civil War, Brunswick having sent more than 125 men to fight during various times of the war.

The main recreational facility of the town is Vanderhyden Lake, an old reservoir for the city of Troy now used for swimming.

The area of Eagle Mills was a significant industrial area during the mid to late 19th century. Many factories sprung up along the banks of the Poesten Kill due to rapids and a waterfall being located in the area. One such enterprise was the Eagle flour mills, which eventually gave the area its name. The building would change hands multiple times before ending up as Millville Manufacturing Company making augers and then Planters’ Hoe Company making hoes. Both companies were under the direction of Joseph H. Allen, who was also supervisor of Brunswick from 1856 to 1857 and a justice of the peace in 1861. Allen closed down Planters’ in 1862 to serve in the Civil War. He came out of the war a lieutenant colonel, a position that was awarded to him specifically by President Lincoln. Planters’ opened up again after his return to the town. He lived in a house on today’s Brunswick Road, which still stands.

The Brunswick Historical Society (BHS) began operations in 1974 and was recognized with a state charter in 1981. It has been housed in the Garfield School since 1988.

Brunswick remained mostly rural into the mid and late 20th century. The 1990s brought about expansion along Hoosick Road, with the addition of a Wal-Mart and Price Chopper, along with subsequent strip malls, in 1996. These openings led to interest by developers to build more housing options within the town, which offers quick access to Troy and, subsequently, Interstate 787 and the greater Capital District. With the new commercial developments, residents wouldn't be required to travel to Troy or other places to shop, offering more reasons to move to the town.

The town has gently rolling hills, which increase to the East, and some ridges of the Petersburg range are visible to the East. The most conspicuous height in Brunswick is Bald Mountain, also called Mount Rafinesque, which has a commanding view down the Hudson Valley. Bald Mountain also has television and radio broadcast towers.

The Poesten Kill winds across Brunswick, and empties into the Hudson in Troy. Its descent in Troy was the site of important water power.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 44.6 square miles (116 km2), of which, 44.5 square miles (115 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (0.25 percent) is water.

Brunswick has a number of unincorporated villages or hamlets in the town.

• Center Brunswick was a point of early settlement and is a little north of the center of the town. It was located upon the well-known Hoosick Road (today, New York State Route 7). Although called Center Brunswick by inhabitants, the New York State highway department has always insisted that the proper name is Brunswick Center, and that inverted name has also followed into the databases of the digital age.

• Haynersville is situated in the north part of the town. It is adjacent to the old Cooksborough neighborhood in Pittstown and was the post office for that area in 1880. It derives its name from the Hayner families, who operated a tavern there after the French and Indian War. It is also located on the Hoosick Road and was a stopping point for stages that formed an important line between Troy and Bennington. It also is sometimes listed as Haynerville.

• Tamarac, or Tamarack, also known as Platestown, was near a point of quite early business, but much of this died by 1880. It is on a route of considerable former travel from Eagle Mills to Boyntonville in Pittstown.

• Eagle Mills, in 1880, was the largest and most important business place in the town of Brunswick. In the mid to late 19th century, it was also known as Millville due to its mill work along the Poestenkill Creek. It is located along the former Mud Turnpike, much of which is the present New York State Route 2 to Grafton and Williamstown. Water power from the Postenkill was an important source of power for the mills. Hosting this type of industry led to other businesses opening up as well, such as a hotel, a foundry, blacksmiths, shoe shops, a wagon shop, and a vinegar establishment just east of the center of the hamlet. Those have all passed, and now Eagle Mills is mostly a residential community.

• Cropseyville is located along present day Route 2 near its intersection with New York State Route 351. It was known for its businesses relating to wagons, including a wagon shop and a blacksmith. It has its own post office. Cropseyville once depended on water power from the nearby Quackenkill Creek.

• East Brunswick, also known as Rock Hollow, is located above Cropseyville, on the old Troy and Williamstown Turnpike. It too depended on the Quackenkill for water power. Its most important business was the Lawton twine factory, which was long closed by 1880.

• Clum’s Corners was a well-known point of early times. It was on the road from Eagle Mills northeast to Boyntonville in Pittstown. The area is named for O. Clum, a blacksmith in the area. The area was known for wagon work, hosting a wagon shop, blacksmith, and hotel. It was known for fertile flats and fine farming. It is now the site of the regional high school, and has some expanding development and is becoming a retail center.

The town contains two listings on the National Register of Historic Places, both schoolhouses: Garfield School and the Little Red Schoolhouse. In addition, it is home to a well-known cemetery, Forest Park Cemetery, currently under the jurisdiction of the town. It is known by urban legend as being one of the most haunted cemeteries in the United States. A very small portion of the historic Oakwood Cemetery, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and burial place of Samuel Wilson, a possible namesake of Uncle Sam, resides within the northwestern part of the town.

As of the 2000 census there were 11,664 people, 4,613 households, and 3,266 families residing in the town. The population density was 261.9 people per square mile (101.1/km²).

Brunswick offers a selection of recreation areas for residents and outsiders. Brunswick Town Beach and Park, formerly the Vanderheyden and Brunswick reservoirs, on North Lake Avenue, was bought and developed by the town in 1967 and opened in 1968. Access is free to town residents. The town also hosts a free concert series on Tuesday nights during the summer, located on the lawn of the Brunswick Community Center. Additionally, the Community Center, built on the foundation of the former Lee School, offers tennis courts, a basketball court, a playground, and rental space for special events hosted by town residents.

The town is home to three golf courses: one private, two public. The Country Club of Troy, despite its name, resides completely in Brunswick, near its western border with Troy. Its 18-hole golf course, designed by Walter J. Travis (his last before he died), opened in 1926. The country club is private. Brunswick Greens, located on Hoosick Road, offers nine-hole course. Additionally, parts of the Frear Park Municipal Golf Course reside in Brunswick, though most of the course is within Troy city limits, and its organization is overseen by the city. Opened in 1931 as a 9-hole course, Frear was expanded to 18 holes in 1964. Frear was designated the Upper Valley winner for best golf course by Hudson Valley magazine in 2003.

(History courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunswick,_New_York.)

You can also view previous issues of Superintendent's Profile.