Highway Superintendent Stanley Mattison and the Town of Greenwich

By Mary Yamin-Garone

It doesn't take long to realize that Stan Mattison — former track man for the Greenwich Johnsonville Railroad — means business. A man comfortable in his own skin, Stan handles himself with confidence and ease as he tells of his journey to this job.

Born and raised in this history-laden town, Stan graduated from Greenwich Central School in 1978.

“I went to work for the railroad after graduation and stayed there for two years,” he said. “Then, I went to work for Miller's Livestock Market (now Oxen Barn). I worked there for five years handling cattle and calves. From there, I went to Briggs Construction for two years. I put up metal buildings, shops and garages. Next, I joined the town of Easton as a wingman. I worked there for 13 years as a motorized equipment operator [MEO] doing whatever needed to be done.

“In 2000, there was an opening here in my hometown. I worked 10 years for the town before becoming highway superintendent in 2011. I beat the opposition twice. My first term was for two years and the last were four. I asked the board to go to four because with a two-year term you just get things moving and you have to start campaigning to keep your job. It just made more sense. It had to be voted on. No one was opposed. Even the taxpayers were happy.”

What inspired Stan to become highway superintendent?

“I strongly thought I could do a better job. When I was a kid, and the highway crew would work on the roads, I'd climb on the machinery and smell the dirt. I'd tell my father, 'Someday I'm going to do that.' Unfortunately, my father wasn't around to see that. He passed away when I was in my early 20s.

Married to his wife, Sandy, for 18 years, they have one son, Stanley Jr., 39.

Stan Mattison (second from L) is sworn into office.

“He's a driver for FRN Trucking and engaged to Meg Lloyd. We have three grandchildren: Ellie, 11; Oliver, 9; and Hannah, 7. That's what life's all about now.”

In his spare time, this super likes to travel and spend time with his grandkids.

“They play baseball, basketball, soccer. I like to be at as many games as I can. My wife and I like to travel. We've been to Mexico and Cocoa Beach in Florida. It's my favorite spot down there. We also love the Amish country. We've gone there the last three years and we'll probably go back this year. There's an Amish farm across from our hotel. I spent one whole day watching them rake and bale the hay with the horses. It's something to see.”

When asked about retirement, Stan said he'll stick around “as long my health allows or until I get beat. I'm sure someone will probably run next year. No one has opposed me, yet. I don't think anyone else has ever considered it.”

All About the Job

The highway department's facilities include a garage that was built back in the early '70s.

The town of Greenwich’s fleet of trucks and snowplows.

“It has eight bays. We also have a salt shed that holds 400 tons. It's full when we start the winter, but then I'll get another three trailer loads. We use a combination of salt/sand. Townships don't use straight salt anymore.

“There's a small office and storage room and a large break room for election voting. I had to downsize for PESH (Public Employment Safety and Health). The electrical box was in the office of the previous two superintendents. The door was sealed off so you couldn't get into it from the shop, which is illegal. I had to cut it way down. Now, someone from the government inspects it periodically.

“I have a pole barn where we hang our sanders. There are six bays (pole barn bays with holes in the roof) and a 45-ft. box trailer for storage out back. The garage is also equipped with a mig and stick welder, plasma cutters, torches and a pressure washer.”

With an operating budget of $776,550 of which $270,000 comes from their annual CHIPS and Pave N.Y. — the Greenwich highway department oversees 76.5 lane miles of road.

“During the winter, a regular work week consists of five eight-hour days and in the summer, we do four 10 hour days, which works out well. The 10-hour days gives us more time to get work done. It also gives the crew an extra day off in the summer after working those long winter hours. In the winter, each man takes care of around 18 miles of road or 36 lane miles, which takes them about 3.5 hours to go over once. In the summer months, our crew runs one man short because one man spends the summer mowing the roadsides. We're also preparing for winter and screening our winter sand. One of my men screens the winter sand, which leaves me with a three-man crew.”

Every year, the highway department repaves the town's roads as needed and as money allows.

Stan’s son, Stan Jr, and his family: Ellie, 11; Oliver, 9; Hannah, 7, and his wife, Meg.

“I don't usually do an entire road. I can only do 2.5 miles because I take the worst parts of my roads. I'm on a 28-year cycle. To get them all blacktopped and start over again would take around 28 years. When I started, we did just under six miles a year. Two years ago, I did 2.3; last year was 2.4 to near 2.5. The blacktop is the most costly part. It comes from Peckham Materials. If you can just go in and blacktop the road if it's not in too bad shape, you can do a mile road for $100. When they get bad, they get wheel tracks. Then you have to shim them and then you can put the top down, which cuts your mileage down because of the expense of the extra blacktop. The shim is to smooth the road out before you put your topcoat on.”

Stan depends on his five full-time employees to help him serve the county's 4.842 residents. His staff includes Ken McPhail (foreman), Randy Sloan, Billy Wilbur, Bob McKernon, Joe Bushong and part-timer Hunter Bullard, all of whom are machine equipment operators.

“I have a hard-working crew. They take pride in everything they do for me and the taxpayers of Greenwich. There isn't anything they wouldn't do. We're like family. I also have a great clerk, Kellie Blake. She's a sweetheart who goes above and beyond what's required. She does so much for me. That, in turn, gives me the time I need to work with my crew and for the taxpayers of Greenwich.

“I also have a good board. This year we have a new supervisor and two councilmen. Time will tell on that. My past board and supervisor were excellent to work with. Never had an issue. As long as I could explain what I needed and why I needed it, I got it. I have a two-person highway committee — Eric Whitehouse and Steve Patrick — that I work with whenever I'm going to purchase anything. Or, if I have a major breakdown, I can contact them. The committee was in place when I got here. We usually have monthly meetings unless I have a breakdown or if I'm going to purchase something, we'll get together prior to the meeting to discuss. The relationship is good because of the way I communicate. I don't hold anything back.”

To fulfill its responsibilities, the town uses a broad fleet of equipment that includes:

• International tandem (2002)

• International tandem 7600 (2003, 2004)

• International Workstar (2011, 2012)

• Single-Axle Max Force (2011)

• Dodge 3500 1-ton pickup (2018)

• F250 pickup (2019)

• Doosan DX 85R excavator (used for replacing culvert pipes that consists of around 250 to 300 ft. of pipe each year; ditching, putting up winter sand pile and trimming trees with brush cutting attachment)

• T6030 4x4 New Holland tractor (used in the summer to mow roadsides and in the winter to load sand truck at the northern end of town)

• John Deere 544K loader

• John Deere 670 B road grader (1986) (used to maintain dirt roads and for cutting shoulders on our blacktops)

• Finlay screener (used to screen between 2,000-2,500 yards of gravel per year and about 3,000 yards of winter sand for the department and 8,000-10,000 yards for our neighbors)

• 550-gallon calcium tan sprayer

• 12-ft. tow-behind York rake

• Morbark brush chipper (1990)

• Alamo Extend-a-Cut roadside mower (2013)

• New Holland 218 skid steer with bucket, broom attachment (used to sweep blacktop roads in the spring and a snow blower attachment to maintain the 1.5 miles of sidewalk.)

Planning for new equipment is challenging for most highway superintendents. So how does Stan manage?

“It's not just the equipment that's changed. The highway superintendent's job has, too. At budget time, the board usually puts $20,000 in for equipment. This year, they raised it to $30,000, but they don't put near enough in. That would make a down payment. The average price for a truck is $220,000. That's a tandem and an axle truck with a pull away plow wing, five-belt. The last three trucks I bought were used because that was the best way to go to upgrade. I won't buy used anymore. As long as I'm here, we're buying new. Since I've been here, I've bought an excavator, a skid steer, two pickups (2018 Dodge 3500 one ton with a plow and sander) and an F-250 pickup with a plow — all new.

“I'd like to upgrade my road grader and get two new trucks and a vibratory roller to for my dirt roads. It's on roller wheels with a big drum. It vibrates and compacts the road. We did that with one road last year. We're trying to get it ready for blacktop. It would be well worth having one. Last year, we borrowed one from the county.”

The town also shares services with the village of Greenwich.

“We have a good working relationship with them. I screen sand for the town of Argyle once a year. Last year, we screened 8,000 yards. We generally put up 4,000 or 5,000 yards to make sure we have that much here. I have a screener so we go up with a loader, dig in the bank and then put it in through [the screener]. The sand and rocks separate. We go through the grader. We also have carbine bits and go through and loosen up and get through the potholes and the road smooths up. The department has its own calcium sprayer, so we spray the road and roll it with the vibratory roller. It flattens it right out and packs it down. We do that on our dirt roads. I haven't rolled them all but the one we are prepping for blacktop.

When asked what has surprised him the most, Stan is quick to respond.

“How easy it was to get along with the taxpayers. For some reason, I don't have many problems with them. Everybody thinks this an easy job. The hours are never-ending. A lot of nights, I'll sit down to eat and a resident will call and have an issue and I'll be gone for an hour, hour-and-a-half talking to them. My big thing is communication. You have to communicate with your taxpayers because without them, none of us would have a job. They're the ones who pay us.”

Every job has good days and bad. For Stan, a good day is any time he can work with his men. A bad day?

“Not being able to upgrade my equipment the way it should be done; not able to blacktop the right number of miles of road each year. When I started 20 years ago, we did just under 6 miles of road. Now we're doing 2.5 for more money.”

Now for the lightning round:

What's been the most challenging? “Winter storms and keeping the roads safe for the taxpayers, especially the kids going to school.”

Frustrating? “Getting taxpayers to understand we can't be everywhere.”

Most important? “Keeping everybody happy. You have to take care of your staff and if the taxpayers aren't happy, we don't have a job.”

Most memorable? Losing our highway superintendent Bob Humiston.”

Proudest moment? “Marrying my wife. We'll be married 40 years this October.”

Is there anything you've done differently since you've been super? “Treating my men like human beings. The last guy didn't. I've done this for so long, I know what my men are going through. I wouldn't ask them to do anything I wouldn't do.”

Future projects? “Last year or the year before I was awarded $1.3 million from Bridge New York (part of the state budget) for two bridge projects. One is replacing a culvert pipe with a box culvert. The other is an outdated bridge. We recently got the design for the first one at the last board meeting. Now, they're working on the second one. Construction is scheduled for the spring of 2021.”

Final words? “I'd especially like to thank my wife for putting up with me and understanding the hours it takes to do my job. Some days she doesn't see me at all … so thank you, Sandy.”

About the Town of Greenwich

The town of Greenwich is situated in the southwestern part of Washington County in upstate New York. It is bounded on the west by the Hudson River, on the south and east by the Batten Kill and on the north by the towns of Argyle and Fort Edward.

The Great War Trail followed the Hudson River on the western border of the town. Indians followed this route long before the French and British discovered its strategic advantages in the French and Indian Wars. It was again used for this purpose in the American Revolution.

Early settlers were attracted by the advantages of the water power. Grist mills and sawmills were followed by woolen, cotton, flax and land plaster mills. Later paper mills and farming became the backbone of the economy.

The town of Greenwich was part of five different land patents: Saratoga, Kettlehuyn, Cuyler, Campbell and Argyle. Originally part of the town of Argyle, Greenwich was set off as a separate town in 1803.

The village of Greenwich was first known as Whipple City named for Job Whipple, its first successful industrialist. He and his son-in-law, William Mowry, established a noted cotton mill here in 1804. In 1809 the village was incorporated and renamed Union Village. The name was again changed in 1867 to Greenwich.

The town has been represented in every war that the United States has been involved in. During the Civil War, soldiers from Greenwich were given the honor of being named Company A of the 123rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, because of their ability to raise the necessary quota of men first. Sergeant Henry C. Morhous of Greenwich, a member of the 123rd, recorded the history of this unit in his book, Reminiscences of the 123rd Regiment, published in 1879.

Stagecoach routs passed through the town and 28 licenses were issued in 1817 for inns and taverns for the benefit of travelers. The opening of the Champlain division of the barge canal provided the needed transportation for farm and factory produce.

Train service came to Greenwich in 1869 with the construction of the Greenwich and Johnsonville Railroad.

In 1895, the Greenwich and Schuylerville Electric Railroad was established. It was later absorbed by the Hudson Valley Railroad. It provided trolley transportation from the Capital District to Warrensburg. Trolleys continued to run from Greenwich to Thomson until 1928 when the tracks near Clarks Mills were washed out in a flood.

The abolition of slavery was a cause that many local people were actively involved in. Dr. Hiram Corliss guided the movement in Greenwich. His son, George Corliss, was the inventor of the Corliss Steam Engine. Legend has it that Dr. Corliss was one of the founders of the American Medical Association. An important “station” of the Underground Railway to Canada was located in Greenwich.

Many talented lawyers, doctors, governors, senators, actors, circus performers, grand opera singers, writers and artists have called Greenwich their home. Names that present-day people will recognize are: President Chester A. Arthur, Susan B. Anthony, James (Kim) Gannon and Hal Ketchum.

Recreation has changed somewhat through the years, but the Batten Kill still provides swimming. There are hills and open fields for sledding, skiing and snowmobiling. Tennis courts, a near-by country club and golf courses lend variety to the choices.

The village has always been a trading center for those in the surrounding countryside. The town has several retail stores, car dealerships, restaurants and agri-businesses.

(History courtesy of https://www.greenwichny.org/about-us/) ?

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