Superintendent of Highways Ron Maggs and the Town of Eden Highway Department

Mary Yamin-Garone

Ron Maggs is destined to go down in the record books. When appointed highway superintendent for the Town of Eden — at age 33 — he became Erie County’s youngest superintendent.

Maggs has lived all of his 41 years in the town. His interest in becoming its highway superintendent started when one of Eden’s retired superintendents urged him to run in 1996. Now serving his fifth term, Maggs has run unopposed in all but one election.

A former shop supervisor with his family-owned printing business, Maggs credits that job with helping him to hone his people skills.

“As a supervisor I was responsible for planning and scheduling. I dealt with the customers and employees, with an emphasis on troubleshooting and repair.”

With a penchant for rebuilding and repairing cars, it is no surprise that one of Maggs’ favorite parts of the job is “working in the shop fixing or fabricating something.” So is working out on the road with his men.

While he voices no complaints about the work, Maggs admits that sitting at his desk and attending meetings are two of his least favorite things to do. “I’d rather spend the day on the job site.”

Kathy, his wife of 11 years, is proud of the work her husband does. “Ron works hard. He goes in early and stays late and has to be available 24 hours a day year-round. He doesn’t complain if he has to work on the weekend. In fact, I think he enjoys being called into work at 4 a.m. if the crew needs extra help plowing. When people pay him compliments on what a great job he’s doing he feels proud that they notice how hard he works.”

The Maggs have two children; Andrew, age 7, and Corbin, age 1.

A motorized toy lover, in his spare time Maggs enjoys camping and attending car races. He has served as chairperson of the Off Road Drainage Committee (he established the office in 1996). In that capacity Maggs recommends to the board off-road right of way projects that will protect the town’s infrastructure, homes and roads.

He also is an active member of the Erie County Highway Association, the New York State Highway Association and the Pastor/Parish Relations board of the Eden United Methodist Church.

Maggs’ term ends in 2009.

Getting Things Done

Under Maggs’ watchful eye, the Town of Eden’s highway department functions on a total operating budget of $1.1 million, which includes salaries and benefits for employees and an annual CHIPS allocation of $59,939. The department’s headquarters center around a 40 by 60-ft. main building that was built in the 1940s. The structure consists of office, crew room, working area and mainline truck parking. Over the years — as general funds have allowed — all of the shop windows were replaced, a new ceiling was installed, the electrical system was upgraded and the building’s interior and exterior were painted.

There also is a 60 by 200-ft. steel structure, steel-sided cold storage building. Constructed in the 1970s, this multi-faceted facility serves as a storage area for any equipment that does not fit in the main building, a sign shop and a recreation area.

In 2002, the gravel floor was replaced with cement and radiant heating. To prepare the floor, mesh and tubing were installed. A local contractor was hired to help pour the cement — two pours at 100 yds. each. A full-length center drain was included and a boiler installed, complete with plumbing and three zones. In addition water and gas were run to the building and grades and drains were set.

A salt-storage facility was also constructed in 1992. The 72 by 60-ft. building holds 1,500 tons of salt.

Maggs depends on his crew of nine full-time and six part-time employees to serve Eden’s 8,076 residents. Full-timers (all MEOs) are Roy Armbruster, Bob Barton, Matt Colvin, Steve Ebling, Glenn Hoelscher, Bill Sickau, Gene Stegmeier, Don Winkelman, John Wittmeyer and Cathy Kugler, senior clerk. The part-timers, used mainly as wingmen in winter on a call-in basis, are Andy Breier, Scot Christiansen, Jerry Clark, Randy Cornell, Skip “Harold” Greeley, Don Preischel and Ken Spence.

Department hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. During the winter months, night watch begins and ends at the superintendent’s discretion, depending on the weather. One man works 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. to call in any roads that require plowing. Last year, new summer hours were implemented for July and August. Crews work Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

It is Maggs’ job to maintain the town’s 40 sq. mi. of road. That breaks down into 84 town roads (many are dead ends); 98 lane mi.; 1 to 2 lane mi. of gravel road; 96 lane mi. of paved roads; and three seasonal roads. Then there are 20 county roads that are made up of 74.8 lane mi. and 30 lane mi. that the highway department plows. If that’s not enough there also are four state roads that account for 14.66 mi. and 1.41 thruway mi. All of that translates into five plowing routes that take roughly three hours apiece to complete.

Keeping those roads safe for travelers in important to Maggs.

“I am always striving to improve our roadways. We can’t afford to perform a full reconstruction of any of the roads but if we can continue making modest improvements we can keep the budget in line and still have roads of which we can be proud.”

The highway department also is responsible for keeping the shoulders of the road lower than the pavement to allow the water to run off into the ditch or storm water drains; trimming and/or removing overgrown brush for better visibility; roadside mowing; filling potholes; street sweeping; installing driveway culverts and pipe across premises; and removing fallen trees as a result of severe weather.

To help get the job done Maggs maintains an extensive inventory of equipment. His fleet includes:

• Trucks: 2002, 1-ton 4x4, electric over hydraulic stainless steel sander, 9-ft. Boss plow, used for the department’s lot and patrolling roads; 1998, 1-ton, 12-ft. flat bed dump with 1-ft. removable sides, pull out extension for hauling pipe, hauling and dumping brush; 1996 and 1997 pick up.

• Mainline: 2002 Freightliner, tandem with side dump; 1999 International 4700, small single axle for hamlet area, subdivisions, dead ends, cul-de-sacs; 1997 Mack, tandem; 1993 and 1989 Autocar, single axle.

• Loaders: 2002 Hyundai 740, 2.5 yd. with quick couple (annual replacement); 1987 Fiat FR15B, 3 yd.

• Excavators: 1998 Gradall G3WD; 1999 New Holland 555E backhoe; 1970 FWD Hyhoe-excavator (used for brush pickup).

• Paver: 1962 Blaw-Knox PF180, 10 ft.; widens to 16 ft., powered by Detroit diesel.

• Rollers: 1994 Ferguson, 8-10 ton static; 1995 Wacker.

• Snowblowers: 1953 FWD Snogo, 8-ft. blower; 1981 Trackless, 6-ft. blower.

• Brooms: 1999 Vac-All (jointly owned with Boston, Colden and Concord through regionalism grant); 1981 Trackless, with Sweepster broom; 1971 Elgin Pelican.

• Unique Equipment: GPS unit; hot mix paver; shoulder machine;

• Miscellaneous: 1964 Galion grader; 1964 Sno-Line sidewalk plow; 1967 Wisconsin 12-ton equipment trailer; 1972 Oshkosh, tandem all-wheel drive; 1974 Ford 2000 tractor with boxscraper, rake and posthole digger; 1978 Ford 9000, single axle; 1985 Autocar, single axle; homemade trailer with tanker for tac-coating before paving; homemade shoulder machine, attaches to front of loader; Chipper 9: Brush Bandit.

With such an array of vehicles, Maggs knows the importance of upkeep and maintenance.

“I implemented an equipment replacement schedule. Each year $52,000 gets placed into the equipment reserve account to ensure that things get done,” Maggs reported. “There is a 20-year rotation on big trucks; we replace one of our five trucks every four years. With small trucks it is an eight-year rotation, one of our four trucks being replaced every two years. This year a one-ton loader will be replaced.”

A series of ongoing upgrades also are being performed. Tandems are upgraded as trucks are replaced to increase efficiency for plowing and summer work. A rubber-tire backhoe also was purchased, making for more efficient piping where there wasn’t an open ditch, for crossover pipes. The backhoe also digs square and creates a narrower trench so less material is needed.

A recently acquired 4x4 Closed Cab Broom Mower with 20-ft. reach also has made a difference for Maggs’ staff.

“It allows us to mow in bad weather with the closed cab. We can reach further behind ditches for entire right of way and visibility is increased,” he added.

Maggs also believes there is nothing like a well-oiled machine. His staff performs oil changes and grease every 3,000 mi. on small trucks; every 5,000 to 7,000 on big trucks; and every 250 hours on equipment. They also work on brakes, clutches, weld and fabricate.

As highway superintendent Maggs’ accomplishments have been many. During his tenure a pavement and chipping (oil and stone) schedule was implemented.

“There is a 10-year paving rotation in the hamlet areas and a three-year chipping rotation in outlining areas,” he explained. “Before paving or chipping, upgrades are performed on the worst parts of the road. Those upgrades can involve drainage systems, shoulder work, ditching, tree trimming and/or removal, recycling, weeps to get water out from under the road and/or true and level the most troublesome spots.”

In the case of roads with poor drainage, “We tile up the center, grind the road five to six inches deep and roll in. If necessary we grade then hot mix binder over with a paver and oil and stone the entire road.”

Maggs also was instrumental in securing federally-funded Hazard Mitigation Grants. The first grant was obtained in 2002 for the Jennings Road Project. Funds were used to help divert water from flooding the subdivision. The highway department contributed manpower and equipment to help with matching funds.

A second grant was awarded in 2003 for the Hemlock Road Project, which also diverted water from flooding older areas in the hamlet with poor drainage. All work was provided in-house by the highway department, including design, easement acquisition, equipment and manpower.

Maggs’ other accomplishments include:

• Multi-Modal Projects: Schoolview drainage upgrades, $8,000, 2003; building upgrades, $7,000, 2001; building upgrades, $7,000, 2000; and building upgrades, $15,000, 1999.

• Secured various disaster monies from snow/rain storms: received $23,000 for snowstorm cleanup in 2001; $20,000 for snowstorm cleanup in 1999; $17,000 for flooding damages in 1998.

• Eden Library: enlarged and repaved the parking lot.

• Town Hall Parking Lot: dug out, upgraded drainage, replaced sidewalks, laid road cloth and new base and paved with binder and top.

• Regionalism Grant: jointly purchased a VacAll with three other towns (Boston, Colden and Concord). Share manpower and/or trucks for hauling and paving. Trade roads for plowing for convenience.

Currently, the highway department is redesigning the intersection at Schoolview Drive plus upgrading the drainage, recycling and paving.

Future projects include Clarksburg Road. Plagued by road slides, this road’s bank has been moving for years and requires repaving every three to four years.

“The plan is to cut the ditch at the bottom of the bank where it is sliding towards,” reported Maggs. “Then weeps will be put in and it will be filled with big rocks to key it into virgin soil. Finally the bank up towards the road will be filled in. I have been saving old sidewalks that were replaced to use with rip rap to offset the costs.”

A Bit of History

The Town of Eden, a rural community centrally located in Western New York, occupies about 40 sq. mi. Its history begins with Deacon Samuel Tubbs as the first settler in what is now Eden township.

In 1808, Eden was part of the township of Willink, which included all of Erie County south of the center of the Buffalo Creek Reservation. It was named for the four Dutch brothers who owned large shares of stock in the Holland Land purchase. Deacon Tubbs, his wife and an unmarried nephew, James Welch, traveled along the lakeshore from Buffalo with an ox team. He came up the 18-mi. creek called Tanunnogas, meaning “full of hickory bark.”

Joseph Ellicott’s map of 1804, following his survey for the Holland Land Company, shows several wagon roads and Native American trails in Willink. There was a wagon road extending from Buffalo all along the lakeshore into Ohio.

The Buffalo Road, which was an Indian trail improved by the Holland Land Company under Ellicott’s direction, took travelers to Batavia, which was the county seat until 1808. Erie County was part of Niagara County then.

There were no Native American trails prior to 1800. However, tradition has it that both Gowanda State Road and Jennings Road were originally Indian trails. Wagons, horsemen and ox teams using these trails had to ford all streams until the county or townships had enough money to appropriate for bridges. By 1829 these two roads had been established as county roads, one result of the rapid influx of immigrants to the area, mostly from New England.

In 1809, young Welch persuaded his brothers, Elisha and John, who lived in New London, CT, to join him. Dr. John March, a graduate of Dartmouth College, and Silas Estee also located near the Tubbs and Welch families.

In 1811, Elisha built the first gristmill at Tubbs Hollow, as Eden Valley was called then. It soon became a thriving mill community.

Today, agriculture is Eden’s main industry. Consisting of some of the most fertile, well-drained soils in New York State, it is a major center for vegetable production. Its produce is shipped all over the western part of the state and into neighboring states. The town also boasts many dairy farms.

Of growing importance is Eden’s contribution to the horticulture industry. Its numerous greenhouses produce a myriad of seasonal and holiday flowering plants.

A highlight for the town is its Corn Festival, a four-day celebration of the summer harvest, which has been held annually since 1964. The community-wide event features a carnival, ball games, queen pageant and other competitions.

Eden also houses several light-manufacturing firms. One of the better-known local industries is the Eden Kazoo Company, which is the only metal Kazoo manufacturer in the United States. The Crescent Manufacturing Company also employs residents.

The town is 10 minutes from Lake Erie, 50 minutes from Niagara Falls, 1 hour from Allegany and Letchworth State Parks, 30 minutes from Buffalo and conveniently located off Interstate 90 between Buffalo and Pennsylvania. P

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