Tucked away between the Pennsylvania border and the Genesee Valley is where you'll find town of Bolivar Highway Superintendent Brad Schiralli.
This lifelong town resident grew up on a small farm. Today, he and his family live on their 162-acre “estate,” most of which is wooded.
“I built my log home on the family farm. Most of the land is wooded, with some hayfields. I continue to raise beef cows — I calf about 15 cows a year and have roughly 35 head. They're in the pasture all summer. The only time we need to be around is when they're calving. We get them into the barn and monitor them. My wife is hands-on, but not as much as me.
“We also raise sweet corn and garlic. This year we harvested about 300 to 400 pounds of garlic. We sell it at the garlic festival in Cuba, N.Y., every fall. If it were up to me I'd give it all away.”
After graduating from Bolivar Central School, Brad went to work for AL Blades and Son, where he hauled black-top and worked on various road and bridge projects.
“I acquired a vast knowledge of maintenance. I left there to become the owner/operator of Tri-Axle Dump Trucks for about five years. It was busy during the summer but not in the winter. We'd starve in the winter so I said that's not for me.
“After that, I was hired by the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad. I worked my way up from a laborer to maintenance supervisor. I was responsible for maintaining/repairing 62 miles of line from Olean, N.Y., to Hornell. I also was a qualified track inspector and supervisor for three employees. In addition to working on the railroad line, I was in charge of rehabbing many of the road crossings.”
Then the town of Bolivar's highway superintendent position opened. It's an appointed position so Brad had to apply to the town board and be interviewed. He was offered the job and started in March 2008.”
Brad was quick to admit those days with the railroad helped in his new role.
“I insulated pipes along the line. I'm also a member of the Operating Engineers Union, Local 832. I did some equipment operating. Growing up on a farm, I could operate a wide variety of equipment and trucks. I have a CDL so if someone can't come into work or they need help during the long winter hours, I'll jump on a truck.”
Married to his wife, Elizabeth, he's the proud father of two daughters, Carmen and Maggie. Carmen is 19 and a sophomore at Alfred University studying psychology. Maggie, 16, is a junior at Bolivar High School.
In his spare time, Brad enjoys hunting and fishing.
“I've been out west a few times. I enjoy anything outdoors. We have a recreational boat. We go to Thousand Is-lands every year. We work four 10-hour days here at the town during the summer so it's tough to get away.”
All About the Job
The town of Bolivar's highway department is spread out among several buildings. In one, you'll find Brad's office, breakroom and an upstairs mezzanine where parts and records are stored. Another is a cold storage facility for equipment.
In 2013, the highway department built a 50 by 100 ft. steel structure building with four bays and radiant floor heat.
“We're coming out of a building that couldn't fit our plow trucks: we had to take the plows on and off every time the trucks would go out. There was a safety issue/concern regarding where we were hooking up the plows in adverse weather conditions — someone could get pinned between a plow and a truck. And we really needed a new facility. We bid it out to a contractor. We did some in-house stuff and had the site ready and graded. They built it from there. It took about six months from start to finish.”
The department's salt shed is in a canvas cover-all building that's 30 by 60 ft. It's a hoop building with a tarp over the top that keeps the salt/sand dry. The building holds approximately 800 tons of salt, which the department gets from American Rock Salt. It goes through about 200 tons of salt, which is mixed with sand in a 5 to 1 ratio.
As the highway department's “head honcho,” Brad is responsible for maintaining the town's 63 lane miles of road, 8.44 of which are gravel and 23.06 are paved.
“We do the plowing maintenance on eight center line miles [16 lane miles] of county roads. It's incorporated into our regular plow route because we travel the county roads to plow other town roads. We have three plow routes and everything can be cleaned up in 1.5 to 2 hours. The system works well the way we have it set up: we have three big trucks and a 1-ton pickup running and I have the superintendent's vehicle with a plow. Everyone has their set duties: the pick-ups take care of the turnarounds and intersections because there are numerous dead-end roads in our township.”
Together, Brad and his three-man crew serve the town's 2,088 residents. His staff includes deputy superintendent David Griswold and motor equipment operators Anthony Ellis and Shane Sibble.
“Dave has been here for 39 years. Came right out of high school. He knows all the ins and outs of the maintenance.
“We're family here. Everybody works together and tries to get along. We had some rough years but things are going well now. It can be challenging at times. Some employees don't like other employees. That's just human nature.”
Under Brad's guidance, Bolivar's highway department runs on a total operating budget of $671,545 that includes salaries, employee benefits and an annual CHIPS allocation of $76,618.
To fulfill its responsibilities, the department uses a convoy of equipment comprised of:
• 2008 International tandem axle plow/dump truck
• 1999 International Pay Star tandem axle plow/dump truck
• 2004 Sterling single axle plow/dump truck
• 2016 Ford one-ton plow/dump truck
• 2012 Dodge ¾-ton superintendent's plow truck
• 1979 Trojan loader 3.5 yd.
• 1998 Case 580 backhoe
• 1975 Brockway single axle water truck
• 1978 T07 bulldozer
• 2014 Case/International 75C mowing tractor
• 1995 Badger wheeled excavator
While Brad agrees that today's vehicles are better made, they're not so easy to work on.
“We have to ship it to a certified dealership to get any electronics worked on. It's not like you can work on it yourself. The line item for that is really impacted. We have a place that's about 15 miles from us. They're not cheap but they guarantee their work and the turnaround is awesome. We get it down there, especially if we have an issue with a truck during a snowstorm. They run two or three shifts and make sure the truck is back to the municipality in a timely manner.”
Is the job everything Brad expected it to be?
“It's challenging at times. I enjoy interacting with people/residents. Being from a small town, I know everybody and their brother. That has good and bad points. The bad is everybody knows everyone's business. The good part is you're friends with a lot of people so you try to do them a just service.”
Asked about his best and worst days thus far Brad replied, “The best is working close to home, doing capital projects. We did one that wasn't quite two miles this summer from start to finish. We prepped the road, installed fuse pipes and cleaned ditches. It's a good feeling knowing you did a good job. The worst? The March snowstorm. It dumped 8 to 11 inches of heavy snow in western New York. It was followed by rain. The combination brought down trees.”
Through it all, Brad has one eye on the future.
“We started a main thoroughfare this year. It's Horse Run Road. It was kind of rough. It's five miles long. We did one-third of it this year. We'll do another third next year and from then on. It's a dry grind. The mill machine comes in and mills the road. Then we re-profile it with the grader and get the profile back and sloped right. Then we'll oil and stone it and surface treat it.
“We have a pool project coming up this fall that needs in-house work. We secured a grant to do repairs. The town and village share the pool so we have matched funds. The pool was closed this summer. We're trying to get it up and running for next year. It'll be challenging with the weather.”
Brad also has some lofty goals.
“I want to make sure all my employees follow proper safety measures in our work environment. I want to provide a good maintenance and repair program for our roads and bridges and maintain a good relationship between the tax payers and employees.”
And if a sudden windfall of cash came his way, Brad said he'd update their equipment — a new excavator, backhoe, dump truck — but probably not their 1963 Cat grader because it's working.
“Believe it or not, we can still buy parts for it.”
When it's time for his swan song, Brad wants to be remembered “as someone who deeply cared about the conditions of our roads; cared about whether the snow was plowed and the roads were kept open. You never hear about the good stuff we do, always the negative. Knowing I provided a level of service to the residents of Bolivar, that I made a difference in how things are done and I did a good job.”
About the Town
Bolivar is the southeast town of the Holland Purchase and is distinguished in the survey of that land as “Town One, Range One.” It is one of the southern tier of the towns of the county and borders on the state of Pennsylvania.
The surface of the town is broken and irregular, consisting of high, steep and disturbed hills and their narrow picturesque valleys. There are two valleys of marked width in the town: the one formed by Little Genesee creek runs southwesterly from Wirt through the village of Bolivar and across the northwest corner of the town into the town of Genesee. The other valley is the southeastern part of the town and, from the earliest white visitations, and perhaps from the days of Indian occupation, was known as Honeoye Valley. Horse Creek, a small tributary of Honeoye Creek, flows through the southwest part.
The town lies almost entirely in the Mississippi valleys, as all its streams are tributaries of the Allegany which flows into the Ohio and that into the Mississippi. The northeast corner is an exception to this as the water there runs into the Genesee valley streams, and this portion of the town is therefore a part of the St. Lawrence valley. The “divide” is not far from Allentown, and in coming along the road between that village and Bolivar the change of the direction of the streams is hardly discernible. The soil of the valleys is mostly a gravelly loam with some alluvial flats. The agricultural facilities of the town tend strongly to dairying, which has in some places attained considerable proportions. Since the development of the Allegany oil field, however, the town has been more noted for its oil production and the industries arising from its development than for its agriculture. Of some parts of the rough land it has been said, “It is too valuable to use for farming purposes.”
The town was formed from Friendship, on Feb. 15, 1825, and named from the noted Gen. Bolivar, the South American “Liberator,” who was at that time, like the Cubans of today, largely the recipient of American sympathy. The first town organization of which the territory of Bolivar formed a part was the old town of Whitestown, which was created in 1780 and included all of Western New York west of a line drawn north and south through what is now the city of Utica.
Bolivar's first town meeting was held at the store of Hollis B. Newton on March 21, 1825. This store stood on the site of the Clark House of today, and a part of the hotel as used today was then standing. At this meeting the new organization of Bolivar took form.
The settlement of the town can be directly traced to Zephaniah Smith, a resident of Unadilla, Otsego county, who in 1816 built a hunting camp of logs (with a loft in which to sleep out of the way of prowling beasts) which he covered with birch bark. He made this his headquarters for hunting and trapping operations for several months in each year until 1819. It stood almost directly across the road from the Baptist church now standing on the Acker-man farm in the southern part of Richburg. Smith made such representations of this section in Otsego county as to attract the attention of some of its enterprising citizens and the result was that a number of families from that section ultimately made new homes here. Smith was never a resident, but his log cabin was the first residence of several of the newcomers and was at last burned by the Indians.
Owing to the plentiful supply of pine and hemlock, the sawmill has from the earliest pioneers been a flourishing institution. The larger amount of this natural wealth was taken away, the Allegany river furnishing means of transportation, but considerable lumber has always been manufactured in and about Bolivar. The first sawmill was erected in 1822 by a number of the pioneers. It was located just below Bolivar village on lot 55. The motive power was furnished by Little Genesee creek.
Another early mill was located in Kansas Hollow, three miles south of Bolivar. Of this mill, there remains no trace. In 1824, Asa Cowles erected a gristmill in the village. Up to this time the settlers were obliged to take their grain either to Friendship or Ceres, a considerable distance with no roads to speak of only forest paths. In 1829 Cowles died, and the mill passed into the hands of A. P. Stetson, who operated it until 1850, when two brothers named Burdick purchased it.
In 1876, steam power was used instead of the old-fashioned water wheel. Soon after the mill came into possession of Curtiss Smith who operated it until his death in November 1895. After oil operations commenced in Bolivar, natural gas was used as fuel for the boiler. In 1835 Stetson, who owned the gristmill, built a small tannery which he operated until 1844. This business was then conducted by different parties until 1866 when the owners, Kenyon & Cowles, added the manufacture of harnesses to the tanning industry. The trade in harnesses flourished and gradually the larger tanneries crowded out the smaller ones until the owners relinquished tanning and turned their attention entirely to harnesses. The building was destroyed by fire the winter of 1894-95.
An article universally manufactured by the early settlers was black salts. A ready market for cash was found in the larger villages, Cuba and Friendship being the point where most was sold. Maple sugar was made for home use also, it being the only sugar easily obtained. Another article of value was the skins of wild beasts and fur bearing animals, deer skins especially. These and venison, and the black salts trade were the only sources for obtaining money during the pioneer times.
Only one of the many railroads once known to Bolivar now exists. During 1881, '82 and '83 it was not a surprising thing to awaken in the morning and find a new railroad in town. They were all of the narrow-gauge order, the rails being but three feet apart. The trains were remarkable for ability in climbing hills and rounding the astonish-ing curves with which the roadbed abounded.
It cannot be said that much attention was paid to the time scheduled on the time table, but passengers were repaid for the time lost in the beauty of the scenery and the novelties displayed by this style of railroading.
During 1881, the Olean and Friendship railroad was built. This was afterward extended to Angelica. The road is now in operation between Bolivar and Olean, running two trains each way daily. This railroad has been burdened by a great number of names — enough to swamp anything but a narrow-gauge railway. It was first known as the Olean and Friendship, then as the Allegany Central, the Lackawanna and Pittsburgh, then the Lackawanna and South-Western, and now rests under the title of Central New York and Western.
During 1881, the Bradford, Eldred and Cuba road was built. The termini were Wellsville and Eldred. This road was operated until 1888 when it was abandoned. In 1884, came the Tonawanda Valley and Cuba road with the terminal points at Bolivar and Tonawanda. This road never paid running expenses. It soon passed into the hands of a receiver, Hon. T. C. Platt being appointed. It was in this road that Gen. U. S. Grant owned stock.
The narrow-gauge road is an institution peculiar to the oil country, and, as a rule, a ride over any branch is a novelty worth trying. The time, owing to the steep grades and sharp curves, is necessarily slow. Between Olean and Bradford is a road running in connection with the C. N. Y. and W., which for wild and picturesque scenery is equaled by few roads in the East.
In that same year, the first major discovery of oil in the valley of fewer than 500 residents. Over the next 10 months, it grew to nearly 12,000 people and hundreds of new businesses were started. In the 1920s and 1930s, a new technique was formed to recover oil from the ground. This made Bolivar one of the wealthiest towns in New York State. The Bolivar Pioneer Oil Museum is a unique place to visit with various equipment displays and hundreds of old photographs.
History courtesy of http://history.rays-place.com/ny/alle-bolivar-1.htm.