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Snowmass roadies keep the streets clear, safe

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Will Binegar, left, John Baker and Ed Fuller, of the Snowmass Village Road Division, stand on the section of Brush Creek Road that their team just paved.
Jill Beathard/The Aspen Times |

Some people take for granted that their roads will be clear, their water will run and their lights will turn on. They don’t know much about the men and women who make it happen.

The six members of the Snowmass Village Road Division are some of those people. They work long hours, sometimes almost around the clock, to take care of the town’s 37 miles of roads as well as maintaining rights-of-way and signs and helping with special events.

“It takes a lot of money and a lot of people and commitment to make these things work,” said Road Supervisor John Baker, who has worked for the town for 32 years.

While most locals are having their offseason, the Road Division’s work picks up. Every spring, Baker’s team evaluates all of the town’s roads to determine which are in most need of repair and tries to complete the work, at least on primary thoroughfares, by the second or third week in June.

“We do our best to help everybody.”
John Baker
Road supervisor, Snowmass Village

This spring, they paved Sinclair Road, upper Brush Creek Road, Lot 11 and Fall Lane. Now they will move to roads that experience less traffic.

Unlike in larger municipalities, the Road Division has to do a little of everything, Baker said.

“Helping with special events is becoming really big,” Baker said.

The crew does everything from helping set up the stage on Fanny Hill to mounting the signs that direct traffic during events.

They also work with a variety of organizations in town to get things done. Recently, Snowmass Tourism hired a contractor to build an event lawn at the base of Fanny Hill where sand volleyball courts used to be in the summer. So the tourism department partnered with Public Works, the Recreation Center and the Snowmass Club to build courts on the club grounds.

“You name it, we’ve worked with them,” Baker said. “That’s our job.”

Public Works employees sometimes help dig graves at the cemetery and recently helped dig a mud pit at the Snowmass Chapel. They also sprayed water on the road leading up Fanny Hill to help Aspen Skiing Co. with dust control. They try not to take work away from the private sector, though.

“We help everyone where we can,” Baker said.

No ordinary day

Baker says there is no such thing as a typical day for his team. For example, on the morning of Jun. 15, some of the “roadies” had to help remove a tree that had fallen down in the Pines neighborhood. They also hung the advertising banners on Wood Bridge, something they do once a week.

They also picked up all the barricades and signs that were put out for the Snowmass Mammoth Fest and were working to fix a road sign that had been hit by a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus.

In another example of partnership between organizations, the Divide neighborhood donated asphalt that it was removing to the town. On Jun. 15, roadies Ed Fuller and Will Binegar worked on spreading the recycled asphalt over Snowmass Creek Road.

Most people who come to work for the Road Division have a background in welding, carpentry, construction or another trade, so they have skills and an interest in this type of work, Baker said. It’s not for everyone.

“You have to work long hours in the outdoors, (sometimes) under weird weather conditions,” he said.

Especially in the winter. If it snows just 2 inches, the roadies will come in as early as 1:30 a.m. to drive the snowplows and make sure the streets are clear before the school buses make their rounds, Baker said. The work usually requires five drivers, so that means some team members are plowing snow on their days off.

“We live by the weather in the wintertime,” Baker said.

The Road Division has four sand trucks, three loaders, a backhoe, a grader, a street sweeper and a water truck in its garage in the Public Works building on Highline Road. Baker said his employees work hard to keep their trucks clean and do a good job because they care about the community and what they do. He estimated that his employees have worked for the town an average of 10 to 15 years.

“That means an organization has been running well,” Baker said.

Ongoing projects

One of the Road Division’s responsibilities is maintaining the snowmelt system on Carriage Way. The stretch of road from the top of the numbered lots to Wood Road is about 200,000 square feet of heated concrete, which requires four boiler plants to run. The boilers maintain the road at 34 degrees.

Another ongoing project is changing the street lights in the village to LED bulbs, which use less energy and last longer.

To Baker, working for government is about helping the community, no matter who the individual or what the problem is.

“We have to figure it out,” Baker said. “We do our best to help everybody.”

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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