The Whitehall Highway Department is in constant motion throughout the year and sometimes its deeds go unseen. During evening hours in the winter, for example, they’re hard at work when most are sleeping.
Louie Pratt II is the department supervisor and has seen his fair share of brutal winters to hit Whitehall. But even through the worst of storms, he is out on the road working, making sure community members are able to use the roadways safely. When asked how this past winter treated his team, he put it in the simplest of terms.
“We survived,” he said.
Pratt mentioned that this winter was on the lighter side than what normal winters look like for Whitehall. He mentioned that there was a rather large storm in the beginning of things, but after that there was no problem for the department to take on. As for the first storm, he said it was a simple task to keep roads clear.
“Stay out for 24 hours and keep plowing,” he said. “It’s a long day but it’s best to keep them plowed off and keep sand where it’s needed. At the end of the storm you can get them cleaned up.”
As for members on team, Pratt said it is crucial he keeps an open flow of communication with the rest of the guys in the garage. The garage works in a team-styled manner to make things easier for everyone. Pratt noted that some of his new employees have worked hard and helped him the most.
“I had two new guys start at the beginning of the winter with me and they trained very quickly,” he said. “My winter was probably one of the easiest because I have three superior employees at this highway garage.”
With spring starting, the highway department is preparing for their normal spring projects which consist of roadway dirt clean up, brush and tree trimming and grating dirt roads. This is where Pratt mentioned that their work sometimes goes unnoticed.
“A lot of people don’t understand what the job entails and what the responsibilities are like maintaining the roads during the wintertime, keeping them opened up and the hours you have to work to keep them up,” he said.
After the spring clean-up, the department will get back into blacktop and culvert projects. The way they approach these projects, specifically with the blacktop, is by the highest priority.
“During the summertime, we only have so much money, but the blacktop we go by high-value roads first as much as the low value roads need it too,” he said.
On the bright side, the Whitehall Highway Department became debt-free in the beginning of February. Thanks to a replacement schedule, the department is able to stay up to date with their equipment as well as plan for future purchases.
“All the equipment is paid for and the next purchase should be coming next year which we aren’t sure if it will be a truck or a small item,” Pratt said. ”We have an equipment replacement schedule we go by and it has got us to where we are now without raising taxes so our equipment is all paid for.”