HAMPDEN – Highway Superintendent Dana Pixley will retire this June after working 43 years for the department and as the longest serving superintendent for the Highway Department.
Pixley, 59, told Reminder Publications he was appointed as highway superintendent on July 1, 1986 and is contract with the town is set to expire on June 30, 2016.
“I’ll have been the highway superintendent for 30 years,” he added. “I went to work here when I was 15 ... For 12 years I was an employee here and when my boss retired they advertised for the position and I ended up getting the job.”
The department has changed significantly since Pixley began working for the town, he noted.
“Changes in the town are huge,” he added. “In my time here [one] of the bigger projects was the replacement of one of our last plank bridges over the Scantic River. It was right at the beginning on Rock-A-Dundee Road. We changed that to a precast boxed culvert. That was a big change and that was almost immediately after I took over.”
Pixley said other changes during the past three decades include improvements to intersections.
“Hampden is kind of unique because it only has one main east-west connector, which is Main Street,” he noted. “The intersection at the end of Main Street was reconstructed. That was a pretty big deal. That was done by my old boss, but I was working here. I reconstructed the intersection of Allen Street, Somers Road, Wilbraham Road, and East Longmeadow Road. There’s a four-street intersection up there and that was done in 1989.”
He added the 1989 improvements are now becoming antiquated due to increased volumes of traffic in the town.
“They’re going to need to probably have some kind of an improved traffic control down there because there’s a lot complaints that come in about trying to exit East Longmeadow Road and Wilbraham Road, which are the two streets that are stopped,” Pixley said. “Allen Street and Somers Road is uncontrolled; you drive right through. Those two side streets end up having to wait for a break in the traffic. They’re sitting there for a long time.”
He continued, “There’s a fairly significant amount of fender benders up there ... It’s going to have to be looked at soon.”
Pixley said despite needed changes for town roadways in the future, overall he believes they are in the best condition Hampden has ever seen.
“The townspeople have passed additional funding in an override question for doing infrastructure improvements,” he noted. “If it wasn’t for that, the roads wouldn’t be in as good of a condition as they are in now. They passed a $1.5 million bond in 2007 and then they passed a $2 million bond in 2013. We still have $1 million left in available funds that we’ll be expending over the next couple years.”
He added the bond money addressed most of the town’s roads that needed resurfacing or reconstruction.
“Some of the projects that are on the list right now are Wilbraham Roads, [which] needs to be reconstructed from Allen Street to Raymond Drive [and is potentially slated for reconstruction this summer],” he stated.
Pixley said he views his retirement as bittersweet.
“It took me a long time of debating as to whether I actually want to retire or not because I have traveled either to my parents’ house to here when I was 15 or from my house, which both of them are less than a mile away, for basically my entire life. All of a sudden not to be coming here is going to be weird. It’s not just that you come here every day – when you’re working this job through the winters you’re here all the time. There’s been countless amounts of nights that we’ve spent all night here. You see the people you’re working with here through the winter 10 times more than you see your own family.”
He added the position would likely be advertised for in early January.
“I wouldn’t support hiring someone from far away,” Pixley said. “You’re going to need someone who knows New England at least and knows what kind of winters they’re going to be up against. And also somebody that may have a knowledge of the area and some of the political affiliations around us as well as Hampden’s. They’re going to have to fit in.”