Some folks not only go the extra mile, they plow it too.
They are the hardworking and dedicated members of the Somers Highway Department who, when the rest of humanity is hunkered down at home during wild weather, are out clearing the roads and, with other first responders, doing what they can to keep the community safe.
One such intrepid soul is Louis Noto, who will be hanging up his snow boots after a 20-year run with the department.
Noto started out in 1998 as a motor equipment operator and was appointed deputy superintendent of highways a mere two years later. He attributes the swiftness with which he attained the latter position to his background in management.
Before taking the town job, Noto had done things like running food stores and a lawn care company. He officially retires at the end of this month.
The town this week declared Friday, Aug. 10, as Louis Noto Day.
A proclamation presented to “Lou” by the Town Board praised him for his “significant’ contributions to the maintenance and repair of roads “in all sorts of weather” and said he consistently responded to residents’ issues in a “profession and courteous manner.”
Noto, it read, is “well-respected” by his colleagues and will be “greatly missed” by all.
Highway Superintendent Thomas Chiaverini was at Noto’s side during the ceremony Thursday, Aug. 9, at Town Hall. Also present was Nick DeVito, who will take over as deputy superintendent of highways when Noto leaves.
“This town is known for the way our roads are treated,” Supervisor Rick Morrissey said.
Councilman Thomas Garrity noted that “Lou” and other heroes of the highway department would leave their homes in the bad weather “to make sure our roads are safe.”
Noto, who had also done a stint with the local volunteer fire department, said Friday that public service has been “a big part” of his and his family’s life.
But, he said, he “couldn’t have done anything” without a good team, from the highway superintendent to the road maintainers to the department’s secretary.
“It’s all about the people under you,” Noto said, lauding their professionalism.
Somers prides itself on the condition of its roads, of which there are approximately 130 “lane miles,” he said.
In the winter, the town is in under contract to plow certain state roads such as Routes 139 and 202.
Lots of professional folks, such as doctors and nurses, live in Somers, Noto said. They work round-the-clock and have to get in no matter what the conditions, so they rely heavily on the town’s ability to clear the roads.
If necessary, the plows will carve a path right to main roads. And in times of an at-home medical emergency, crews will make sure the ambulance gets to the patient, Noto said.
Noto has seen it all in Somers. From the back-to-back nor’easters last March to the recent wet and wild weather, storms can wreak a lot of havoc.
But the one weather “event” that sticks most in Noto’s mind is the Category 4 hurricane that struck the East Coast in September 1999, causing two deaths and millions in damage in New York state alone.
Floyd made landfall in North Carolina and reached Long Island as a tropical storm. Nevertheless, it produced major rainfall and gusty winds from the southern Hudson Valley all the way to the Lake Champlain area.
Floyd downed trees and power lines, leaving 100,000 people in the state in the dark.
There was so much damage that 15 counties in eastern New York were eligible for state and federal assistance in its aftermath.
Floyd took out two small bridges in Somers, one in Lincolndale and the other in Shenorock, trapping some residents in the latter hamlet.
“It was devastating,” Noto said.
He recalls the town crews having to create a temporary road, a project that required removing trees, just to get them out.
“There was no other way,” he said.
Noto and his crew, under the supervision of Chiaverini and the town engineer, rebuilt the Lincolndale bridge, which was over a culvert, and its spillway themselves.
From making the forms to pouring the cement and getting the wood, “we did it all,” Noto said.
The Shenorock bridge was rebuilt with the help of an outside contractor.
As with any clean-up of this magnitude, it takes can take days if not weeks to complete.
“When we have a storm, we try not to leave until every road is accessible, especially to emergency vehicles,” Noto said.
Everyone single person in the department goes above and beyond the call of duty, Noto emphasized.
Calling DeVito “a sharp kid,” his soon-to-be predecessor said he is more than confident that he’ll “do really well.”
Although it’s hard to leave his job of two decades, Noto said he feels better “knowing that it’s in good hands.”