By: Amanda Ibey, writer/editor
This winter season has been brutal on Vermont’s roads. Huge potholes and ruts are dotting roadways and blowing out many a tire. Then there’s the small Town of Rupert (population 686) which is tucked into Bennington County. According to Jay Wilson III, who’s in charge of the highway department, “We cover 46 miles of road and over 80 percent of them are just fine and causing no concern.”
Jay, who has led the department for over 43 years, was one of the first towns in Vermont to join AGC/VT. “It was the sign package and access to ongoing training that caught my eye,” says Jay. “We were working in the quarries, doing a ton of blasting on ledges with sharp edges. I knew my team needed a little more expertise and knowledge and AGC/VT offered us affordable training.”
The ongoing training has helped Jay and his two-member crew, which also includes his brother, Thomas, get more work done at a higher quality. “We’re not just a maintenance crew. We do a lot of construction,” explains Jay.
The team recently built a new barn to house its winter road salt, three tandem trucks, a new grader, dump truck and a payload truck.
And after tropical storm Irene struck, a small portion of Route 15, where an old dam had once been, caved in and washed away. Within a day, Jay and his team were onsite and within 48-hours, had stabilized the old dam and made the road passable again.
“A few days later, a state official from Montpelier toured the damage with me,” recounts Jay. “The guy asked me, ‘how far into this project were you when Irene hit?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about? This is because Irene hit.’ He couldn’t believe how far we had gotten in just a few days, but that’s just how we work,’ laughs Jay.
His team doesn’t do everything. Jay’s known for working with local contractors and other pros who are experts at operating heavy machinery like cranes. “We work together with other towns too like Pollock sharing manpower and resources and helping each other out. We get a lot done this way, plus it’s just the Vermont way, neighbors helping neighbors.”