TOWN OF CHESTER — Chester’s highway department is gearing up for a winter of snowplowing as one plow truck arrived this week, and two more are expected in November, to replace those damaged in an April fire at the department's garage.
Meanwhile, the department is still without the use of five bays that will need to be demolished and replaced, whenever insurance money comes through.
Five trucks have been repaired and are back in service, according to Highway Superintendent Anthony LaSpina. Two loaders were destroyed along with three plow trucks in the fire at the Laroe Road garage on April 22. An apparent electrical problem in a 2005 single-axle plow truck caused it to catch fire that night, LaSpina said. The fire quickly spread to four other truck bays.
With cold weather on the horizon, LaSpina had electric lines run from the salt barn on the property to an adjacent covered shed, creating eight outlets for the diesel-powered plow trucks to be plugged into during inclement weather.
LaSpina said that highway work throughout the town has continued on schedule this summer, despite the smaller fleet.
“I called other Orange County highway superintendents, and they really came through for us,” LaSpina said. “We needed to pave a development this summer, and one of them lent us a truck so we could do the paving. That’s what we all do — and if the shoe were on the other foot, we’d do the same for them.”
“You hear a lot about municipal shared services lately, but we’ve all been doing that for years,” he said.
The blackened bays still stand in the middle of the garage, awaiting demolition. Four bays flanking them — two on the east end of the building and two on the west — have been used over the summer. But there’s no heat in any of them, and no water in the western bays. A plumber will run new gas lines next week to heat the four bays, LaSpina said.
LaSpina said the highway department will extend water lines to the western bays so trucks can be washed as needed.
All of that costs money: The Town Board last month approved a $660,000 bond to replace the three plow trucks. The electric lines cost another $20,000, and the gas line installation will cost about $15,000. The town engineer is gathering quotes for steel for the wrecked bays, and will also research quotes for demolition and construction, LaSpina said. He estimated the cost of replacing the bays at more than a million dollars, to be submitted to the town’s insurance company.
Highway Department Foreman Joseph McGowan praised the town highway workers for persevering in sometimes-difficult conditions. LaSpina agreed, and added, “We want to assure the public that we will do whatever it takes to do whatever needs to be done.”