Highway Superintendent Chris Countryman and the Town of Macedon
Mary Yamin-Garone - PROFILE CORRESPONDENT - November 2023
Chris Countryman is proof positive: hard work and perseverance pay off.
For him, the journey to becoming highway superintendent of the town of Macedon was a slow and steady one that began in 1998 when he joined the highway department.
A lifelong resident of Macedon, Chris was born and raised on the north side of town, off of Quaker Road.
"There was a trailer park over there that's still there today," he said. "That's where I was born. Then, my parents bought a house on Magog Road on the south side of town where I lived much of my childhood."
Looking back, this superintendent has always been involved in some sort of construction.
"I'd always be running equipment or working around equipment," he said. "I was working for Meyers, a small company out of Fairport. They do sewer, septic and some water lines. While doing that, I got word that the town was going to be hiring. So, I applied for the town job and been working here ever since."
So, how did he end up behind the super's desk?
"I never really had a reason. I was working with the highway and my guess would be I called it natural progression. Never once when I started working for the highway department did I say ‘yeah, I want to be the highway superintendent.' I never looked at it that way. I was just thankful to be having a town job with benefits, retirement, being close to home, available to be with the family and the kids. That's how I looked at it.
"I worked with the town for eight or nine years before making deputy," he added. "I held that spot until 2015, when I ran for office and won. I took the oath of office on January 1, 2016. I actually had someone running against me. He got several weeks jump on me, but we went through the process and I ended up winning. I must admit, it was a trying time, but I prevailed. Now, I'm currently wrapping up my second term and running unopposed for my third."
All in the Family
Chris is the proud husband to Jennifer. "She's a stay-at-home mother and grandmother. I also have two daughters, Taylor and Bailey. Both are married and Taylor has three children: Evelyn, Colton and Christopher James."
In his spare time, Chris enjoys spending lots of time hunting and fishing on his bass boat. "I also like going out with my wife enjoying the town and the peacefulness of being on the water."
Getting the Job Done
Here at the highway department, you'll find four maybe five buildings on the premises.
"We share the main highway facility with Gananda Transportation," Chris said. "It's a school district located with-in the town of Macedon. Actually, the district involves two towns — Macedon and Walworth. There's also an old dilapidated barn that holds our snow fencing and other things. The building is 50 feet by 150 feet. It's mainly used for repairs and truck and vehicle storage. Then, we have another cold storage barn that's 120 feet long. Most of our equipment is kept in there. We also have a cover-all salt shed that can roughly accommodate at least 7,000 tons.
"Macedon used to be a town that would run a 50-50 mix in the winter months," he added. "I've switched over to straight salt with a magic additive that's been working out quite well. It was tough in the beginning. Lots of adjoin-ing towns and down to the south and west of us were already straight. So, when residents or people drove from those towns and they came to our town with mix, it was such a dramatic line of road conditions. It drove me nuts. That's when I made the switch to streets all with magic additive.
"Ever since then it's been kind of nice. During the winter months, I've noticed morale with the guys seem to always be there because they're up all hours of the day and night. When they go out now, they're going out with the best of the best. You can't get any better than what we're doing now. All our trucks are automated. They know they're going out with street salt and an additive to help with freezing temperatures. I did all that while working within the same budget numbers this department had."
There's also another building dubbed the Mobile Building (MLB).
"Years ago, it was a research and development building for Mobile Chemicals. It used to be a big company in town that employed many people. They had a manufacturing facility on Main Street right in the hamlet. There was another business office in town on Route 31. They were huge in Macedon for a number of years — I would say probably, you know mid late 1990s. Most of what was wrapping up in the buildings has since been purchased by other companies."
As the highway department's "top dog," Chris is responsible for maintaining the town's 64.43 lane miles of road; one of which is gravel. That translates into eight plow routes that take approximately three hours to complete
He gets help keeping the town's roads safe for the approximately 10,000 residents from his full-time crew. Key staff includes working foreman Andre Bellefontaine and highway employees John Anderson, Joseph Cavallaro, James Ellis, Paul D. Everdyke, David Payne, Daryl Quigley, Patrick Randall, Timothy Vendel, Gary Wright and part-time staffer Jim Johnson.
Under Chris's guidance, the town of Macedon's highway department runs on a total operating budget of $2.7 million that includes salaries, employee benefits, an annual CHIPS allocation of $88,970.
When it comes to equipment, most of the time the operator is responsible.
"At times, I do have a guy in the shop," he said. "If we're too busy with other things, he'll pick up the general maintenance or repair equipment, trucks or whatever. So, budgeting-wise for new equipment, a good part of my main line equipment is on five-year equipment leases. I try to stay on top of that. It's nice because it's a consistent budget year after year. I don't have a piece of dream equipment. As for future needs? Believe it or not we kind of lack in the pickup truck world.
"I have five main line pieces that are leased: loaders, street sweepers, excavators and mini-excavators and the roadside mower tractor. When the time comes, I'll trade them in. Because the machine is up to date, the trade in value typically works in our favor. Then, the next set of lease payments end up going down. I also buy sometimes. I just bought a new leaf pack for the hamlet area. We lease that, too.
"As you can see, I focus a lot on the equipment since I've been in office. Because I've been focusing so much on getting the equipment getting up to date so we can get the work done. Pickups, per se, have taken a backseat. I've gotten to the point now where I have my leases established on the equipment that we use most. Now I need to focus on getting our pickups up to date. The newest ones we have are both 2020. Our next newest is targeted for 2014. I also have an F-550 and another on order.
The Lightning Round
Is the job everything you expected?
"That and more. I take everything I do to heart. I try to be here almost all the time. Constant connection and communication. I don't like feeling disconnected from anything, so I try to stay in contact with my guys. If somebody comes up and asks me a question, I don't want to give them an answer like ‘I'll have to get back to you.'"
What surprised you the most?
"There was talk about our village being dissolved. So, we went through a dissolution. The biggest surprise was picking up what was originally the villages' work, but on the stuff that people focused on most, which was the leaf and brush pickup. That was huge in the village. The town never had a cemetery to maintain. I didn't think many people paid attention to the cemetery. That didn't last long. A lot of people pay attention to the cemetery."
What's the most important part of being a highway superintendent?
"I think that whole connection with not only the residents but also the employees. I think it's huge. Usually, when we get a phone call at the office, I tend to get right on it. I don't let them sit around. I'll even call the residents. I'll ask, ‘if I can just meet you at the property.' A lot of them are surprised at that. I stay in tune with the guys and what they do, so there's no disconnection between supervisor or employee. I try to help them as much as I can, but I also stand back for a lot of it."
"I'd say one would be a job we took on a drainage job in 2018. After the village hamlet dissolved, we took a really deep drainage job that came from a drainage dish up through houses and went to another low area. It was old pipe that was collapsing and would cause this huge development to have lots of water and mosquito problems. It was extremely time consuming. Soil conditions were horrible. The pipe was deep in the ground. It meant multiple excavators, trench box and a tight working area."
"Most of them we do in-house. We're currently doing the Erie Street Revitalization Project. Last year, we put a section of gutters in and sidewalk this year. We're going to continue doing both. Then, when the roads are all done, we'll build and pave the road. So that's a work in progress there. The guys are currently working on Mary Drive. That's another big roadside drainage project. The development over there had lots of water problems over the years. The road conditions are pretty deteriorated there. So, we're currently working on drainage and then we'll probably mill and pave that this fall, as well. Last but not least, we'll do the normal oil and stone surface treating. I try to do 10 miles a year with that."
What would you like to say to your crew?
"Thank you. I couldn't get any project done without them. That's for sure."
Describe your job in one word.
Like most highway supers, when it's all said and done, Chris wants to be remembered for "doing a good job, helping people and keeping the town roads safe."
What more could the townspeople ask for?
About the Town of Macedon
The town of Macedon in Wayne County is named after the birthplace of Alexander the Great, in Ancient Macedonia. Located in the southwest corner, it contains a hamlet also named Macedon, formerly an incorporated village.
Prior to early settlement, the area in and around Macedon was home to the Seneca Nation, a tribe member in the Iroquois League. The town land was acquired for settlement in 1788 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as part of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. The first settlers, Webb and Hannah Harwood, arrived in 1789.
The construction and completion of the Erie Canal from 1817 to 1825 brought many new settlers to the area. The town of Macedon was incorporated during the canal construction in 1823, from what had been the western half of the town of Palmyra. The opening of the Erie Canal led to the forming of new port communities like Wayneport and the village of Macedon, with the latter centered on Lock 30.
Remnants of the former Enlarged Erie Canal Lock 60 (also called the Lower Macedon Lock) are located along the canal trail off Quaker Road, just east of the village of Macedon. It was built in 1841 as a single-chamber lock but doubled in 1874. The lock had a lift of 10.02 ft. to the west. It was abandoned in 1914. The site is currently maintained as a park. Nearby are the remains of Erie Canal Change Bridge #39 (also called Gallup's Bridge), located just west of the intersection of O'Neil and Quaker roads. A change bridge allowed towpaths to switch from one side of the canal to the other. The bridge was constructed in 1881 and had an iron lattice truss with a wooden floor. Only the foundations are still in place.
The Macedon Academy, open from 1841 to 1902, set a standard for education excellence of the era. The academy provided an intermediate level of education, between the district school level and college.
Part of Company B, 160th New York Volunteer Infantry, was raised in Macedon during the American Civil War. At the time, the town had a population of only a little more than 2,500.
The J. and E. Baker Cobblestone Farmstead and Charles Bullis House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town is part of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 38.9 sq. mi., of which 38.7 sq. mi. is land and 0.2 sq. mi. is water. Macedon is bordered by the towns of Walworth to the north, Palmyra to the east, Farmington (Ontario County) to the south and Perinton (Monroe County) to the west. An East-West auxiliary branch of NY 31, New York State Route 31F and New York State Route 350 intersect east–west New York State Route 31 at Macedon hamlet.
According to the 2010 census, the population was 9,148.
(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedon,_New_York) P