Superintendent of Highways James Brady and the Wayne County Highway Department

Mary Yamin-Garone

For Wayne County Highway Superintendent James Brady a job well done is reward enough for his toil.

Whether it is opening a new bridge, completing a project on time, or honoring an employee with a promotion, those are the best days on the job for this county resident of 43 years.

Originally from Westchester County, Brady was appointed chief caretaker of Wayne County’s 405 mi. of paved roadway by the county board of supervisors in 1993. Prior to that he was self-employed in the drainage business where he fabricated concrete drain tile and installed drainage systems for area farmers.

Following that Brady went to work for Elderlee Inc. as a layout supervisor for guide rail and highway signs. He had worked for the company once before — from 1968 to 1972 — following his high school graduation.

“My position with Elderlee had me traveling all week,” Brady recalled. “The Wayne County highway position afforded me more time with my family, plus I could contribute to the county.” In spite of all the “road work” involved, there were positives associated with that job. Brady credits his years of self-employment for helping him to develop good work habits for getting the job done.

Brady’s wife, Dale, is quick to express her pleasure regarding her husband’s job with the highway department.

“After 22 years of self-employment in a business that relied heavily on decent weather for that paycheck and peace of mind, it is nice to see Jim with just that — peace of mind [and the check, of course]. I truly believe he enjoys the work he is doing now. He has accomplished feats that weren’t all that pleasant when he started as superintendent.

“I admit that those occasional 911 emergency calls in the middle of the night for a stop sign down or a fallen tree in the road can be a bit startling, especially when your children are out of state and you have elderly parents. At times it’s tough to get back to sleep but that comes with the territory. My son, David, 26, daughter, Jane, 35, and I are very proud of Jim and the work that he does.”

Brady is a member of the New York State Town Highway Association and the New York State Association of County Highway Superintendent’s executive committee. During his off-hours he enjoys golf, fishing and hiking. Brady is up for re-appointment to another four-year term this December.

Getting the Job Done

Under the watchful eye of Brady, Wayne County’s highway department functions on a total operating budget of $8 million, which includes salaries and benefits and an annual CHIPS allocation of $1.7 million.

Included in the budget is $1.3 million for snow and ice maintenance.

“We contract out our snow removal on a lump sum basis to the county’s 15 highway departments,” said Brady. “The dollar amount gets adjusted according to the state’s J miles, a formula used to compensate crews for how many times they are called out, especially during a hard winter. The past two years we have been at approximately 159 percent. Because of the severity of last winter we went over by $900,000.”

Brady depends on his crew of 52 to serve the county’s 94,000 residents. Full-time staff includes Deputy Highway Superintendent Steve Haskins, Highway Engineer Richard Vanderlinde and Junior Engineers Brad Overacre and Brian Frey. Nine seasonal MEO 2s are hired along with five high school/college students for roadside mowing. Employees work eight-hour shifts, Monday through Friday, during the winter and nine-hour shifts throughout the summer.

Built in 1967, the department’s main facility measures 30,000 sq. ft. with 2,200 sq. ft. of office space. This includes a sign and tire shop, a central garage for county fleet vehicles and a weights and measures office.

More Than Road Work

Road maintenance isn’t the highway department’s only responsibility. It also serves as custodian for the county’s 40 bridges.

“When I started, the bridges were deplorable, so I created a bridge construction crew consisting of five to six men. Noting the New York State bridge inspection reports, the crew takes care of any deficiencies, whether it is broken guide rail, wells in need of repair or routine painting. We have managed to work on one or two bridges each year. Since 1993, 12 new bridges have been constructed and four others were rehabilitated, bringing their ratings up several points.”

Another feather in Brady’s cap is the county’s computer-generated sign-making machine.

“This is the third year we have had that,” he noted. “Our $15,000 investment allows us to make all of the road signs for the surrounding towns and villages, plus our own. Before it would take some time to silkscreen a sign, but now — with this state-of-the-art equipment — if a highway superintendent needs a sign right away, by the time he gets here we can have it done. We have a sign construction foreman who is in charge of the two crews responsible for sign making.”

Wayne County also will be setting a precedent when it institutes its countywide sign program in 2005. This pilot program — the first of its kind in New York State — is an effort to consolidate services.

“The county will inventory and maintain all town and county signage to ensure their compliance with state and federal regulations. The inventory is in place and we have chosen an engineering firm. We hope to have all 15 towns on board by next year,” Brady said.

In yet another innovative move, Brady and his crew — unlike many of his counterparts — produce their own gravel.

“Three pits are now open under permit. Usually we find the gravel deposit on a farm,” he said. “We cannot get into the ground water so it would be more of a knob or hump. If it contains gravel we take it right down to a certain elevation, rehab it and then the farmer can plant corn again.”

This process is cost-effective for the county because “We try and place the gravel pits in locations where we will be doing road construction for the next three to four years. A single pit can do up to four roads. We usually contract for one dollar per yard.”

Due to Brady, Wayne County also is one of a handful of counties to have its own pavement striper. Used for centerline and edgeline striping, the highway department has been using this revenue-producing machine for 20 years. In addition to performing work for the county, villages and towns, the striper also has done work for New York State and other counties.

A Vibrant Region

Wayne County, originally included in lands of Ontario and Seneca Counties, became a separate county on April 11, 1823. However, the county’s history actually begins long before then.

Little has been written about the early Indians who lived in and around the county. When the first white pioneers arrived in 1789, it does not appear that there were any major Indian settlements in that area. Rather, the Indians made hunting and fishing trips into this region where bear, wolf, deer and a variety of fish could be found in large quantities. Sodus Bay was a favorite fishing spot and a well-worn trail extended from its shores to the head of Cayuga Lake, where the Indians had permanent homes.

Artifacts found throughout the county, especially in the town of Savannah, indicate that Indians, at one time, did have permanent or seasonal camps in the area. In fact, approximately 10,000 years ago Indian hunters, following the retreating glacier, moved into the area to hunt mastodon, moose and elk.

Once agriculture was introduced into the Indian Society, permanent settlement moved to the south of the county into the area around the Finger Lakes.

The French fur traders and Jesuit missionaries also made occasional visits to the area. On the banks of the Clyde River, near the site of the present village of Clyde, a blockhouse once stood.

In May 1789, two bateaux (flat-bottomed boats) carrying Nicholas and William Stansell, John Featherly and their families — 12 persons in all — landed on the banks of the Clyde River just south of the present village of Lyons, and became the county’s first settlers. That same year pioneers took up land in Palmyra and Macedon. A steady stream of newcomers followed and by the early 1800s there were settlements in almost every town in the county.

Those early settlers found land covered with thick forests, principally of hard woods, such as oak, hickory, beech, birch and maple, with soft woods on the low lands. The cutting away of these forests gave the pioneers a source of cash income at a time when there was almost no other, through the manufacture of potash from the ashes of the burned logs. An ashery was one of the first business enterprises. Although the tillable land has long since been stripped of its forests, there continues to be a fair amount of logging done in the county.

The land of the county is level or slightly rolling, except for the drumlins, long ridges of hills extending north and south, created by the receding ice sheet. It has a general slope northward toward Lake Ontario. From the lake southward, there is a fairly uniform rise to what is known as “the Ridge.” This is an elevation extending across Wayne County from east to west and continuing on beyond the state boundary. The elevation of the ridge, from 150 to 188 ft.; its situation with reference to the lake; and the soil have led geologists to believe that it constituted the southern shore of Lake Ontario in the far distant past.

Partner in Growth

Wayne County prides itself in being a place where business is not only welcome, but also is given the support needed to succeed.

Steady progress has been made in lowering taxes and reducing Workers’ Compensation contributions and unemployment insurance. Consolidation and simplification of economic development programs and reductions in regulations also have helped businesses cut costs and become more profitable.

Several Fortune 500 companies have found a home in Wayne County where market access is assured by a modern transportation network and conditions that enable industry to thrive. These companies also benefit from a highly skilled workforce, including graduates from some of the 30 colleges and universities located within an hour’s drive, such as the University of Rochester, Cornell, Colgate and Syracuse University.

In addition, each year, agriculture generates $120 million in gross income for the county. Wayne County is the second ranked county for apple production in the country and the number one county in New York State. It is the top ranking county in the state for asparagus production and second in livestock and poultry. Wayne County also leads the way in the production of apples, peaches, pears and tort cherries.

Wayne County also offers easy access to many shopping areas, including a vast regional factory outlet center in Waterloo. It is within a 45-minute drive to the Carousel Center in Syracuse, which is currently expanding to become a national supermall to be renamed Destiny USA.

A brief drive through the northern part of the county leads to Lake Ontario. Incorporating Sodus Bay, its largest inland bay, Ontario offers an array of sailing, powerboating, fishing and other commercial and recreational activities and events. Not far to the south are the rolling hills and wine trails of the Finger Lakes Region and to the northeast the Adirondack Mountains offering virtually limitless outdoor activities.

For history buffs, Pultneyville is an old lake port and terminal on the Underground Railroad that is worth visiting. Palmyra is an Erie Canal town, which also showcases historical Mormon sites and the Alling Coverlet Museum.

Lyons, the county seat, features preserved and restored buildings including the county court house and museum. Other points of interest include the Erie Canal and the historical Sodus Point Lighthouse.

Visitors can take some history home by visiting the county’s many antique shops. Contact the Wayne County Office of Tourism at 800/527-6510 or visit www.tourism.co.wayne.ny.us for more information. P

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