Highway Superintendent Scott Trisket and the Town of Clymer

By Mary Yamin-Garone

For Scott Trisket, the road to the town of Clymer highway department was a long one.

Scott grew up in Panama, N.Y. — a neighboring town to Clymer.

“I was raised on a horse farm,” he said. “My dad is big into Belgian Draft Horses. We always joked that he was half Amish because he does a lot of his farm work with them. As a kid, I spent a lot of time putting in hay. That's what my summers consisted of.”

After high school, Scott went to the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa., where he received a certification in heavy equipment service and operation.

Following college, “I went to work for my father-in-law at Hoover Excavating and Trucking. I stayed there for two years running a dozer, backhoe, excavator and dump trucks. I found out it's hard to work for family. Family dinners were about work, not family. After I left there, I was a semi-truck driver for Maplevale Farms, a food service company, for the next 13 years. I supervised 17 drivers and was responsible for training them, covering outs and call offs and scheduling vacations.”

So how did Scott end up as highway superintendent?

“I was approached by the highway superintendent at the time. He was running for the superintendent's spot and was looking to fill a position. He wanted to know if I was interested. I was hired as an MEO in 2007 and was elected superintendent in 2011.

Overlooking the town of Clymer.

“I got out of truck driving because I was tired of watching the news. They'd be forecasting a foot of snow and I knew I'd have to drive in it all day. Then I go to the highway and I'm in the snow all winter long. It's different now. I'm always only 10 miles away from home. It's not hundreds of miles out on the road all day long.”

In his spare time, Scott loves to golf.

“My game needs work,” he admitted. “That's why I golf so much. I went out for the first time this year and it was pathetic. I do a lot of hunting in Chautauqua County on my dad's property. He has 100 acres. It's become a family affair. My daughters are into hunting now. My older daughter has been hunting ever since she got her license five years ago. My younger daughter doesn't have her license yet. Her husband is a big-time hunter so hopefully she'll get hers soon. She'll go out with us. She just can't shoot anything. I'm in the process of building a 6 x 8 hunting shack. It'll have heat so it'll be a warm hunting season next year. The older I get, the less I like to sit in the cold. My wife and I like to travel. We spent a week in Florida this past winter. I don't think I could do it year-round, but it's nice to go down for a week. You can recharge and come back and make it to spring.”

Scott and his wife, Wendy, have been married for 28 years. She's a teacher's assistant at the Clymer school. Their daughter, Emily, is 26 and married to Travis. She works at the local grocery store. Marissa, 23, is married to Tom and is a certified nursing assistant.

When asked about her husband's job, Wendy said, “Being a highway superintendent is perfect for Scott and Scott is perfect for the job. It's a win-win.”

Scott also is vice president of the Chautauqua County Superintendents Association.

The town of Clymer highway department’s garage.

All in a Day's Work

The department's digs were built in 1973 and the salt shed in the late 1980s.

“The main highway garage is 120 by 80. It houses my office, the town assessor and the board room. All our trucks fit inside. It's a good size building for this area. All in one building — no bays. There are doors on the east and west end; a straight drive-thru building. There's also an 80 x 40 cold storage out back. It houses our winter equipment. We also have a 40 by 60 salt shed that holds up to 1,200 tons of sand mix. We use 120 tons of salt and 1,000 to 1,200 tons of sand to get us through the winter. We do a salt/sand mix: five buckets of sand to one of salt. The sand will get us through the winter. We don't have any storage for salt to get it all at once so we order 35 tons at a time. Then we mix it when it shows up. This past winter we went through 111 tons of salt. That's about average. Last winter, we had more ice than snow. Lots of freezing and thawing killed the roads.”

As superintendent, it's Scott's job to maintain the town's 65.86 lane miles of road; 11 of which are gravel and the rest are paved. That translates into three plowing routes that take about 2.5 hours to clear.

Scott relies on his three full-time employees to serve the town's 1,600 residents. His crew includes mechanical equipment operators (MEOs) Michael Teculver, deputy; Brian Minor and Clif Nyweide.

The town of Clymer's highway department functions on a total operating budget of $243,300.

“That covers highway, fuel, repairs, sand and salt. The highway budget alone is $150,300. We rely heavily on CHIPS, which is $103,391.83. We get $19,214.35 for PAVE-NY. We no longer receive $15,658 for Extreme Winter Recovery. The governor took that out. He didn't think we had an extreme winter. It's been available for the last five or six years. PAVE-NY is on a five-year schedule. This is our last year. I have a feeling that it's going to be easy for him not to renew it. For a town that relies heavily on the CHIPS money, that hurts.”

To help carry out its duties, the department uses a bevy of equipment that consists of:

• 2005, 2008, 2016 International 7600 tandem trucks

• 2000 Sterling Tandem (spare truck)

• 2015 Ford F250 pickup w/8 ft. Sno Dogg plow

• 2007 Chevy pickup with an 8-ft. Western plow

• 2013 Case 621F wheel loader/12-ft. snow box

• 2008 Case 865 motorgrader/13-ft. snow wing

• 1997 Samsung wheeled excavator/5-ft. Tiger Cat brush head

• 2018 John Deere 5100M 4 by 4 tractor with attachments (74-in. mid-mount flail mower; 88-in. 3 pt. hitch flail mower; and 8-ft. front-mount rotary broom)

• 2004 Ford TC30 compact trailer with 6-ft. belly mower

• 2017 Dynapac roller (owned with three other towns)

Every highway superintendent prides themselves in having an up-to-date fleet. For Scott, that's easier said than done.

“Our oldest truck is a 2000, which is a spare truck. We also have a 2015 International dump truck. We purchased a new John Deere roadside mower last year. It replaced our 1986 Ford 5610 tractor. I try to put up an equipment replacement schedule, but it's hard to follow. When we want to buy a piece of equipment, we have to bond it and they only allow two bonds to be open at once. With bonding, we have to borrow money. We usually do five-year bonds and make a payment once a year.”

When it comes to maintaining the vehicles it's all hands on deck.

“We do a lot of the work ourselves. You can't work on the new trucks with a hammer and screwdriver anymore. You have to send them out. We handle as much in-house as we can. Right now, one truck is down while the guys are putting in a new clutch. We do as much as we can ourselves. Some things have to be sent back to the dealers. It can be frustrating. I'm putting $5,000 into a 2005 truck, which isn't going to increase in value. But we have to do what we can to keep them running.”

Looking ahead, Scott would like to replace the department's 2005 International dump truck with a new one.

“We had to replace our roadside mower last year. That threw the equipment schedule out of whack. That's what's keeping us from replacing it in 2020. Now I have to wait until 2022.”

In addition to running the highway department, Scott is responsible for maintaining and repairing the town's water system. Until recently, the town employed a private contractor with a backhoe to do the digging.

“Now, with this Dig Safe NY, you must be certified to dig for a municipality. A private contractor doesn't have to be certified, but anyone who digs for a municipality does. Recently, all four of us from the town got certified to dig for our water system. We don't have the piece of equipment without going out and renting or borrowing from a neighboring town. That's a purchase I've been trying to get through this year.

“We share services a lot. One of them has a mini-excavator that we can borrow. It would be nice to have our own. We have an excavator, but it's too big. Sometimes we have to get in between houses and we can't do it. We do a lot of shared services, especially when we're blacktopping or oiling. Without our neighboring towns, we couldn't get things done in a timely fashion. The five highway superintendents in this area are great friends. When one guy needs something, we're more than happy to help them out. It's such a benefit. We even share services with our county highway department. It makes things flow that much easier. The last two years, between the towns of French Creek, Sherman, Lina and Harmony, we purchased a 26-ton blacktop roller together. We also bought a 20-ton trailer so we can haul it around. Now we don't have to buy equipment that we don't use all the time. We'd have to beg, borrow and steal from a neighboring town and then have to work around when they're blacktopping. It's so much nicer to have our own. It's also a good cost savings.”

When asked about his favorite part of the job, Scott was quick to answer.

“I love seeing a nicely paved road. A clean black road that makes you feel good that you improved a road that people are happy to see — and ride on. And the least favorite? When Mother Nature doesn't cooperate. You get frustrated. You schedule a project and Mother Nature lets you know she's going to put a stop to it.”

Without a doubt, wintertime is the most difficult.

“We live smack dab in the middle of the snowbelt. You're constantly thinking about the roads. If you go somewhere on the weekends, you're always wondering what the roads are like back home. You can't plan anything. You're constantly thinking about what's going on outside.”

Scott's worst experience came before he became highway superintendent.

“I started working for the highway on January 1, 2007. First round of plowing in the morning, I went out with the superintendent at the time. He was going to show me how it worked. He did the first part of the route and I plowed the second half. He said, 'You did a good job. I'll let you do the afternoon route by yourself.' Everything went well with the first run. Then, when it was time for the second one, they were calling for major snow. By the time we went out to plow, it was snowing so hard I could hardly see the plow on the front of the truck. I kept asking myself over and over, 'Why in the heck did I take this job? What am I doing out here? This is stupid. How do these guys do this all the time?' I got through it and it got easier as I went. Then my first freezing rain event was a real eye opener. As a truck driver for 13 years, I was always out on the roads after they were treated. Being the guy who treats the roads is a totally different experience. You're in a 50,000-60,000-pound truck that you have no control over on an ice-covered road. Now, I don't feel bad when I have to call the roads when there's ice. I'm just glad I don't have to go out. That's one of the perks of the job.”

Now, nearly 10 years as highway superintendent, is there anything Scott would like to change about the job?

“I thought about this one. Sad to say, I live in a town that doesn't like change. We've done things basically the same way for 30 years. Why change it now?”

About the Town of Clymer

Clymer is a predominantly Dutch village in the western part of New York State. Because it was relatively close to New York City, it became a popular destination for Dutch emigrants in the 19th century. Most of the early settlers came from the eastern part of Gelderland.

Chautauqua County, the southwestern county of New York State, was founded in 1808. The village of Clymer was founded in this county in 1821. The town was named after George Clymer, an eminent Pennsylvanian and one of the signers of the declaration of independence.

The land in Chautauqua county was purchased by the Holland Land Company, that sold the land to immigrants. Many immigrants arrived in New York City and then travelled on to Albany with the intent to cross the Great Lakes. In Albany, they were approached by people from the Holland Land Company and interested in buying land in Chautauqua.

The Dutch settled in many villages in Chautauqua County, but most of them settled in Clymer. The first Dutch immigrants arrived there in 1844: the Lomans and Navis families from Winterswijk. In 1845, several more Winterswijk families followed. By 1851, about 25 Dutch families were living in Clymer. Most of them settled in the Northwestern part of the town. They settled on the old and the new “plank” roads, the “pork” road, and the town line road between Clymer and Sherman west from the plank road. The pork road was presumably called that because many of the Dutch kept pigs.

Over the next several decades, many more Dutch immigrants settled in Clymer or neighboring villages such as French Creek, Mina and Harmony. Most of them came from Winterswijk and Aalten in Gelderland, although some came from Overijssel, Groningen, Friesland and Zeeland.

Church Life

In 1845, the Congregational denomination started working among the Dutch. As early as 1846, the church had its own Dutch minister (dominee), Adolph Hesselink from Aalten. He was known as a good preacher. He stayed in Clymer until 1850, when he moved to Muscatine, Iowa.

After his departure, the people in Clymer found Jan Willem Dunnewold from Winterswijk willing to come to them and study to be a minister. It was under his leadership that the church was received into the Reformed Church of America in 1853. Although he was not a great preacher as far as preaching from the pulpit went, he was an excellent pastor to his people. In 1868, he accepted a summons from Gibbsville, Wis.

Rev. Dunnewold suggested another man from Winterswijk, Gerrit Jan Renskers, as his successor. The two men knew each other back in Winterswijk and had often had heated arguments about the Secession. Renskers had come to the United States in 1846 and was a minister in Zeeland, Mich., before coming to Clymer.

It is said that when two Dutchmen get together, they form a church but when three get together, the church is split. This also was true in Clymer. In 1869, 18 members were given letters of dismissal from the Clymer Hill Church (the mother church). The Reformed Church of Clymer was founded.

Education

As early as 1853, a schoolhouse was established to teach the young. It was in use for 86 years. Remarkably, this 'little red schoolhouse' still exists today. It has been designated as a historic place in 1994.

Clymer Today

The Dutch origins of Clymer can still be seen today. Many people in the telephone book have Dutch surnames.

(History courtesy of https://www.dutchgenealogy.nl/clymer-ny/) ? P

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