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Roadways

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Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy sits at Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Smithtown Highway Department turned the page on a tumultuous 2015 on Tuesday, when Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) swore in newly appointed Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy.

Murphy, 52, served as the interim superintendent after Glenn Jorgensen resigned in October and pleaded guilty to charges that he falsified public documents. Jorgensen, who had been in the position for about six years, was also accused of sexually harassing one of his employees. Murphy was deputy superintendent from 2012 until the beginning of his interim term this past year.

“I’m confident that Mr. Murphy will continue to perform as he has over the past few months,” Vecchio said in a phone interview. “He’s open to suggestions for efficiency.”

Vecchio also said he’d received more complimentary calls from the community regarding the highway department’s handling of two snowstorms in 2016 than any other storms he can remember.

The supervisor was responsible for nominating Murphy to take over as the permanent superintendent, and the board unanimously approved him.

“It is an absolute pleasure to appoint Mr. Robert Murphy as Smithtown highway superintendent,” Town Board member Lisa Inzerillo (R) said in an email. “Many phone calls from Smithtown residents have come in letting us know what a wonderful job Mr. Murphy has been doing. Robert demonstrates dedication to this position, highway employees and the residents of Smithtown; therefore, appointing Robert is the best decision for our town.”

Murphy said in an interview that he has about 25 years of experience in the engineering field, and a business management degree from the University of Phoenix.

He and his wife Kim both graduated from Smithtown High School East in 1981, and he has lived in Smithtown his whole life, minus a 12-year stay in Arizona.

Murphy returned to Smithtown about six years ago, and before becoming deputy highway superintendent, he spent about two years as a capital projects manager for Suffolk County. He and his wife, who manages an East End Disabilities Associates group home in Riverhead, have a 25-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son.

“I’m a people person,” Murphy said, when asked which of his qualities would help him in his new position. “I’m a facilitator. I love to get things going in the right direction, and that’s what’s happening at the highway department right now. Communicate with the people, show them respect and they’ll give respect back.”

Murphy said he believes a key to his position is bringing jobs and projects to workers that will leave them with a sense of pride. And Vecchio said he’s noticed an uptick in worker morale since Murphy took over.

“For the four years that I was there and then the interim period, you always think, ‘Let’s change this,’” Murphy said. “Now it’s on your shoulders and you’ve got to make sure you try to implement different things and see if they work and just be a good leader. If you’re a good leader, then guys will follow, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Murphy said that he’s looking forward to the challenges and work that he has ahead of him.

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Brookhaven is implementing a new method of paving streets. Photo from Dan Losquadro

December is approaching, but things are heating up on the streets of Setauket.

Brookhaven became the first municipality across Long Island to use a product known as warm mix asphalt during repaving projects, and with three paving seasons already under his belt, Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said its implementation could not be smoother — literally.

“As the third largest Highway Department in all of New York state I felt it was important for Brookhaven to be both an innovator and a leader in introducing new technologies,” he said in a statement. “As we enter the latter part of the paving season, warm mix asphalt allows us to achieve proper compaction, especially during night work in cooler temperatures. I want to show other departments that not only is this product viable, it’s actually preferable in many instances.”

Warm mix asphalt production uses temperatures 30 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the traditional hot mix asphalt used in paving projects. The Highway Department said that greater temperature differences between asphalt mixes and the outside temperature makes for faster cooling for the mixes, which affects durability. With warm mix asphalt’s slower cooling time, it is most effective when used in lower temperatures, typically at night, Losquadro said.

The Highway Department entered into a new contract last year, which included new bid specifications calling for the technology, which Losquadro said provided more accountability and streamlined the paving process.

The technology has been used for more than a decade across the country, but did not hit the pavements of Suffolk County until last week in Setauket.

“Since it was first demonstrated in the US in 1996, warm mix asphalt has sparked the interest of transportation agencies and the private sector,” said Tom Harman, director of the Federal Highway Administration Center for Accelerating Innovation. “Warm mix asphalt technologies allow a reduction in asphalt production, flexibility when it comes to the temperatures needed for applying it and reduced production fuel consumption and emissions.”

It also extends the paving season and enables the use of higher recycled products, Harman said. In 2014, a third of all asphalt produced in the U.S. was warm mix asphalt, and “we expect use of the material to continue to grow in use.”

Over a two-night span last week, the department traveled the streets of Hulse Road to Comsewogue Road, and Comsewogue Road from the train tracks to Sheep Pasture Road to Old Town Road, Losquadro said.

By the end of the week, Losquadro said the streets of Setauket saw new life. The highway superintendent said it delivered a handful of benefits to the town right off the bat, including better working conditions for air quality and also reducing fuel emissions, fumes and odors.

“We achieved a very uniform surface with almost no roller marks or imperfections,” he said. “I wanted to pick the right time to test this out and have that proof of concept to use it in cooler temperatures. Now having done that, I see no reason why this can’t become our new standard for Brookhaven. I see a lot of benefits to us, both environmentally and from a work perspective.”

The cost, Losquadro said, is fairly minimal in difference from typical hot mix asphalt usage. The Setauket job saw a roughly 88-cent difference per ton of asphalt used, which amounted to about $4,400 more than what hot mix asphalt would have achieved.

“That’s pretty minimal in the grand scheme of the size of the jobs we’re talking about here,” Losquadro said. “The cost should be at least offset by the reduction in fuel that the manufacturer is going to save by not having to heat the material up as much.”

And with his proof of concept, Losquadro said he would be bringing his warm mix story to future meetings of various county highway departments with hopes of spreading the success.