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Feb 17, 2010 10:59 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Gregor digs in, and out, as new Southampton Town highway superintendent

Feb 17, 2010 10:59 AM

On January 4, his first Monday as superintendent of the Southampton Town Highway Department, Alex Gregor was running on only two hours of sleep.

Just days before, Mother Nature had dumped 8 inches of snow on the East End, and Mr. Gregor was at his office on Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays making sure that Southampton Town’s 450 miles of road were properly salted and sanded to prevent cars from slipping and sliding. His workday actually started on Sunday, and carried over into the early hours of Monday.

“I was here until 2 a.m. I went home for two hours of sleep, and I was back here at a quarter to seven to start the real Monday,” he said during a recent interview. “My goal is to be proactive in office. So safety is our main concern now.”

Those first few days of public office were a true “trial by snow” for Mr. Gregor, a former drilling and environmental contractor from Hampton Bays who had just replaced Highway Superintendent Bill Masterson, a Republican who retired on December 31 after 20 years of service.

Mr. Gregor, who was elected to a four-year term in November, was not even in office for a week, at a brand new job in which he is responsible for overseeing about 65 employees and an approximate $12 million budget, when he was

given his first difficult test: an early January snowstorm. He had just rebounded from that potentially crippling punch when, last week, another 7 to 9 inches of snow blanketed the East End, according to the National Weather Service.

Today, nearly two months after taking office, Mr. Gregor, an Independence Party member who was endorsed by Democrats, is facing yet another potential obstacle: the $225,000 budgeted for snow removal for 2010 is almost gone, and spring is still a month away.

Although he did not have exact numbers this week, Mr. Gregor said his snow-removal budget is “approaching the no-money point.” Still, he stressed that the town’s roads will always be cleared, even if money needs to be borrowed, or bonded, by the town.

“We will find the money to do it. At no point will we stop,” he said. “If it snows or [the roads] need to be sanded, it’s going to be done.”

Mr. Gregor explained that his employees—some of whom have clocked 17- to 20-hour days to clear the roads—have been forced to work a lot of overtime due to the snowstorms. He noted that the December blizzard that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the East End ended up costing the town around $300,000, money that came from Mr. Masterson’s 2009 snow removal budget.

Town officials, including Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, credit Mr. Gregor’s hard work and communication skills for making the cleanups following two significant snowstorms go smoothly, even if they were costly.

“We both had a christening by fire with the [January] snowstorm that happened,” said Ms. Throne-Holst who, like Mr. Gregor, assumed her new position on January 1. “It worked out well, we were in constant communication when the weather happened.”

Nate Roach, a Highway Department employee who works in the Westhampton Beach yard on Old Riverhead Road, said after he finished preparing the trucks for last week’s snowstorm, that not much has changed since Mr. Gregor took over. Mr. Roach noted that his day-to-day routine has remained the same, though he added that it is a bit too early to tell how his new boss is different from his predecessor, Mr. Masterson.

“It’s been great so far,” Mr. Roach said. “I have nothing bad to say.”

The required sanding and salting of roads are not the only things responsible for Mr. Gregor’s 12-hour days; he is also responsible for paving roads and filling potholes. His office was busy working on a list of roads, which he declined to share, that need to be paved in the near future, and outlined other infrastructure projects that he wants to get done.

Mr. Gregor presented some of those projects to the Southampton Town Board during a work session last Thursday, February 11, and explained that he wants to complete some $5.2 million worth of projects this year. Mr. Gregor is seeking permission to bond up to $4 million to complete the work, $2 million more than he is allowed. More than half of that additional money, about $1.2 million, would be deposited into his department’s road reconstruction fund, which started the year with $3 million.

This year, that fund, which is set aside for paving, is supposed to finance three major projects: the straightening of a dangerous bend in Red Creek Road in Hampton Bays, which is expected to cost about $430,000; the realignment of a section of Noyac Road, near Cromer’s Market, that is estimated to cost $440,000; and an estimated $83,000 project that includes reinforcing a roadway over a culvert near Mecox Bay, in the Flying Point area of Southampton.

The cost of those projects will most likely result in fewer roads getting paved this year, according to Mr. Gregor. In a normal year, he said such large undertakings would be considered capital projects and paid for with other funding. But that isn’t an option this year because the town’s finances are tight.

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Go alex!
By rabbit (65), watermill on Feb 17, 10 11:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
So happy that our hard-working civil servants found the time and money to erect massive signs with their names on them... No wonder our town is broke.
By littleplains (305), olde england on Feb 17, 10 12:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
If you look closely at the sign you'll notice that it is not a new sign, but that a board with the new superintendent's name having been placed over the old. I doubt this is the reason for our town being broke.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Feb 17, 10 12:21 PM
littleplains seems like u got nothing better to do then complain. What about the roads during the storm how did they look? They looked pretty clean and well taken care of this last storm but all you have to complain about is a sign. And maybe you should go check the sign out in person because its not a whole new sign only the name is different. Know your stats before u open your mouth
By fatty2002 (2), Hampton Bays on Feb 20, 10 8:01 AM
The Highway Superintendent is a tough job for any man but Mr. Gregor has the chops to do it well - and in fact will probably be a better managed and more efficiently run operation than before.
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Feb 17, 10 3:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
i think the roads were very clean after the last few snows but I am impressed with the handling of the major snow/ice conditions in BH that were usualty ignored. Fine job new Mr. Supt
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Feb 17, 10 6:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Please keep the good job!!!
I will never forget the last big snow fall last December it took 4 days to clean some roads...years before I used to hear the truck working at night making sure roads were clean last December was HORRIBLE!!!!!!
By Bel (86), southampton on Feb 17, 10 8:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Alex Gregor is a good and decent man. Take care of business Alex!
By Spanky (1), Southold on Feb 17, 10 10:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
I've met Alex years ago and he is a good man.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Feb 18, 10 9:11 AM
Alex is doing a fine job, keep it up.
By Talbot77 (53), southampton on Feb 18, 10 10:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
I was dazzled at how good the plowing was in my Mt. Misery section of Sag Harbor. It was done quickly, often and well. The drivewyas were not blocked, the plowing was prompt AND well-thought-out. Last December the service was hopeless. My thanks and congratulations for a job well done this time.
As a volunteer driver for the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons, I could not believe how in 24 hours after the snow, there was no road I could not travel. All best to all of you.
By Cairnterriot (8), southampton on Feb 18, 10 6:32 PM
The ones who really deserve the credit are the workers who are out there driving the trucks for hours on end. A great job done by all.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Feb 21, 10 11:38 AM
1 member liked this comment