After 2 decades, Ancram roads chief bows out

ANCRAM—It’s the end of the road for Jim MacArthur after 20 memorable years as town highway superintendent.

As the December 17 Town Board meeting got underway, Town Supervisor Art Bassin called it “significant” because it was Mr. MacArthur’s last meeting as highway superintendent and Jim Miller’s last meeting as a Town Board member.

Mr. MacArthur, who has never been a fan of these monthly government formalities, said it was his last meeting “period.”

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Ancram Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur is pictured on the job in 2011. Photo contributed

Mr. Miller who was elected to the highway superintendent post in November will get behind the wheel beginning January 1 after seven years as town councilman. Mr. Miller noted that the town had “come a long way in the last seven years,” had “gotten a lot done” and that he was “looking forward to his next adventure.”

Mr. MacArthur told Mr. Miller that if he thought being a town councilman was “aggravating,” he was in for a surprise.

Mr. MacArthur’s last recommendation to the board was about which bids for road materials to accept. He advised the board to accept them all with the exception of those from a company with a gravel mine in Kingston that only gives a price for materials delivered, never for how much it would cost if the town comes to get them.

The board agreed.

Mr. MacArthur said though he usually doesn’t have much to say he would make an exception since it was his last meeting. He said the town’s Highway Department is a much better place than it was when he started in 1996. He said the roads are in much better shape, but “it takes money” to keep them that way and “you can’t kill the taxpayers.

“The garage was bad. The equipment was bad.” But now the town has a new facility where employees can work on equipment and store equipment undercover. He mentioned the town’s two brand new trucks and said the rest of the fleet is in good shape. “We don’t have any junk anymore.”

Mr. MacArthur, 65, thanked town residents for giving him “the opportunity to work for them for the last 20 years. But now it’s time to retire,” he said.

When people question the wisdom of his retirement, cautioning him, “You’re going to miss it.”

“Not one bit,” is his response. He said he won’t have a chance to get bored with a “honey-do list” posted where he can see it while he watches TV, and a part-time job already lined up. And “when the weather’s good, there’s always the golf course.”

He then stood up and went down the table, thanking and shaking every board member’s hand. He even shook the hand of this Columbia Paper reporter saying, “Thank you for all the nice things you’ve written about me over the years.”

He vowed, “I’m not going away, I’ll be around.”

Town Clerk Monica Cleveland noted that it had been Mr. MacArthur who first suggested that she run for town clerk. “Everyone makes a mistake now and then,” quipped Mr. MacArthur.

He turned over a set of keys to “the shop” to Mr. Miller but said he would not be getting the keys to the highway boss’ pickup truck just yet.

Mr. Bassin said he would not forget Mr. MacArthur’s standard operating procedure of asking for forgiveness first then permission. The supervisor said he was grateful to Mr. MacArthur for getting things done and called his ability to deal with residents “impressive.” Mr. MacArthur always offered practical solutions and connected well with constituents, said Mr. Bassin.

Councilwoman Madeleine Israel thanked Mr. MacArthur for heading a responsive highway department.

Councilman Hugh Clark said his research had led him to understand that after 7½ years in the U.S. Army, Mr. MacArthur, then a staff sergeant, and the military parted ways because “you and the Army could not come to terms on your propensity for wearing shorts. The Army’s loss was our gain.”

Mr. MacArthur said he had been given some valuable advice by his first sergeant in the Army, who told him, “Never be afraid to make a decision. It could be wrong and it could be right but never be afraid.

“And now I’ve made the right decision,” he said.

In other business the board discussed a distressing situation involving a logging operation on Westfall Road.

Ancram Fire Chief David Boice said he had responded to two unattended controlled burn calls there during December. It seems the loggers were burning a brush pile and though they were onsite during the day, had left the pile with still burning embers, situated within 30 feet of the road to smolder all night and possibly spread.

Chief Boice said he and other firefighters were “there for hours.” The logging had been going on there 24/7 all summer long according to one resident. Though the town requires such an operation to get a permit from the building department, the loggers had only gotten one two days ago, said Councilman Chris Thomas, who also lives on the road.

Supervisor Bassin wanted to know if the Department of Environmental Conservation has the authority to do something about the violations. Chief Boice said the operation might be considered agricultural and not subject to the rules. There was concern voiced that the loggers planned to burn another pile at some point.

Mr. Boice said the loggers had the fire in a pit and had “a large machine to put it out” but that “they agreed they should have stayed with it longer.”

The next Town Board meeting takes place January 21, starting with a 6:30 p.m. public hearing on Central Hudson’s proposal to replace existing street lights with LED lights followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

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