Ayer, Mass., DPW Battles Snow

By Joanne Ray | September 28, 2010

It's that time of year again when snow and ice wreak havoc on the roads of New England. During these winter months, DPW superintendents have their work cut out for them, and Michael Madigan, PE is no different.

As DPW Superintedent in the town of Ayer, Mass., for seven years, Madigan has been hard at work bringing a once unorganized department up to par. His main focus in this town, just 35 miles NW of Boston, has been to replace all of the public works equipment that had become antiquated throughout the years.

"When I got here our fleet was in pretty tough shape," Madigan said. "I try to ad three or four new pieces a year. I have replaced about two-thirds of the fleet."

Immediately though, Madigan is in the throes of another subzero New England winter where budgets are tight and snowfall is plentiful. By January 1, this year's budget of $154,320 had already been dipped into heavily as the area had four snowstorms back to back. The first two set the budget back about $62,000 and as of the beginning of the year, Madigan had not had time to calculate the second two yet.

"Since I last calculated we have had two more storms," Madigan said. "I know I still have money but how much I don't know. If I run out I go to the Selectmen and ask for more."

In this town of 7,300 people and 40 miles of road, the DPW has 22 employees — five of whom work for the highway department. If an inch or two of snow falls then the highway department usually can handle the task. Three or 4 inches of snowfall prompts Madigan to ask for volunteers from the other employee base, and more that 5 inches brings in the contract employees. The equipment operators control the roads with plows, salt and sand.

"We plow every road," Madigan said. "There are very few roads here that you can call country roads that can wait until the end. The people here expect to be plowed so that is what we do."