A big score for Riverhead’s highway superintendent

TIM GANNON PHOTO | One of the free reversible plows Highway Superintendent George Woodson showed off Tuesday.

“He spent about $80,000 and got about $3 million worth of equipment,” Councilman John Dunleavy said of Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson, who this week received two giant snowplows — each featuring reversible plows — from the federal government for free.

Mr. Woodson has also been buying used equipment and having it restored for a fraction of the cost of new equipment.

The highway boss showed off the trucks during a press conference Monday with Mr. Dunleavy and councilmembers Jodi Giglio and Jim Wooten.

The reversible plows probably would have cost about $160,000 apiece if they were purchased new, Mr. Woodson said. The only expense associated with the used ones, which are 1993 models, was installing new batteries and paying about $7,000 to have them transported to Riverhead from an air base near Niagara Falls, he said.

Unlike a normal snowplow, which has to turn around to change the direction, the reversible models can lift and redirect the plow blade without having to move the truck.


Riverhead recently received word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that it was eligible to receive the trucks for free because the town had qualified for disaster aid due to the cost of December snow removal efforts. Mr, Woodson said he learned about that program while he was in Binghamton, N.Y., looking to buy a new snow blower truck, which he says is the last major piece of equipment his department needs.

The highway superintendent has been scouring government auctions and traveling the state looking for inexpensive pieces of used highway equipment that can be restored in-house and save the town from having to buy more expensive new equipment.

“Maintenance is the biggest part of the department right now,” Mr. Woodson said. “I can’t spend $400,000 on a vacuum truck. But if I get it for nothing, to dump $30,000 grand into restoring it is nothing.”

He said he’s purchased about 13 pieces of used equipment for the department since he took office about four years ago. He was on the job about a year when he first discovered that a wealth of inexpensive used equipment could be acquired at auctions.

The two reversible plows will replace two plows from 1956, he said, adding “1993 is an upgrade compared to 1956.”

And rather than painting the two trucks orange like the rest of the town fleet, he plans to leave them green and dedicate one to local veterans and another to victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Mr. Woodson’s other used equipment purchases include five sander trucks, which he got at a from a New York City highway equipment auction for far less than they would have cost new and had his department restore. They can also can be used as snowplows. He also acquired an old brine truck from a farmer who originally bought it from the Riverhead Fire Department. The brine truck is used to carry salt water so it can be applied to roads before a storm.

“It will take the first two inches of snow off the road and it creates a barrier so the snow doesn’t stick to the road,” Mr, Woodson said.

Mr. Woodson said he paid about $900 for the brine truck, which was built in 1968, and the department put about $18,000 worth of work into restoring it. He said a new truck like that would cost about $100,000.

The sanders cost about $6,500 apiece and each requires about $20,000 worth of restoration work, Mr. Woodson said. So far, work has been completed on only two of the sanders. Purchased new, Mr, Woodson said, each of those trucks would have cost about $300,000.

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