Winter weather may mean headaches for commuters, but for Angelo Pampena, it also can mean sleepless nights and lots of criticism.
Mr. Pampena just celebrated his second anniversary as the state Department of Transportation's senior highway maintenance manager for Allegheny County. His anniversary is worth noting, Mr. Pampena said, because many managers don't stay long in the position.
"Let's face it, people don't usually call us up to compliment us," he said. "It is a 24/7 job with a lot of stress, but I love it."
In his role, Mr. Pampena oversees 3,322 miles of state roads and bridges in Allegheny County and more than 200 employees, who maintain the roads including patching, paving, replacing and fixing pipes, and at this time of year, plowing and salting in snowy weather.
"This time of year can be tricky with the weather, but we keep busy year-round," he said.
He and his staff monitor the weather constantly.
"We are subscribed to every weather service there is, plus we monitor through our cameras. We have cameras on the roads -- when many of the news stations show road conditions, they are views from our cameras," he said.
Mr. Pampena, 50, lives in Washington County with his wife, Sharon, and their 14-year-old son, Anthony, so he travels a lot of miles to and from his Fox Chapel office and other sites throughout Allegheny County, which has six satellite maintenance locations with stockpiles of salt and supplies, he said.
When the weather forecasters predict a "plowable event," which Mr. Pampena defines as 2 inches of snow or more, the drivers prepare their trucks. Since drivers work shifts, a snowfall may or may not require extra workers and extra hours.
"It all depends on how bad the conditions turn out to be," he said.
Mr. Pampena receives emails with weather advisories to keep him on top of the conditions around the clock. And that can make for sleepless nights.
"It is 24/7 sometimes. We have people out there all of the time," he said.
PennDOT also contracts with local municipalities to assist with plowing the roads during winter storms.
"We couldn't do it all ourselves. This is one way we can keep up with all of the roads," Mr. Pampena explained.
During the warmer months, roads are repaired and treated by PennDOT workers.
"For example, last year, we shot 800,000 gallons of oil on the roads then laid chips on top to maintain our roads," he said.
Mr. Pampena, who lives in Nottingham, grew up in Carrick and is a graduate of Carrick High School. He loved drawing and was good in math, so he thought he wanted to be an architect until a high school counselor suggested engineering.
"He asked me if I wanted to be poor and if not, maybe engineering would be a better career choice," Mr. Pampena laughed at the recollection.
He completed a bachelor of science in civil engineering at Point Park University and started working with PennDOT right after graduation.
"I'm one of those rare people who still work at the same place for 27 years," he said. He worked in the instruction and design areas of PennDOT before he became a maintenance manager on Jan. 3, 2011.
PennDOT workers pride themselves on keeping the roads safe for the residents of Allegheny County, Mr. Pampena said.
"I have the best employees. They treat the roads as if it is their own families driving on them. They take great pride in their work and do a wonderful job," he said.
And it literally is a big job.
"We have the largest area and the biggest budget in the state -- we know we have a big role. Could we do better? Sure. We are always looking for ways to improve, but we are always doing our best," he said.
And while Mr. Pampena freely admits that his job may involve a great deal of criticism, he enjoys the work.
"I love this job," he said. "It is exciting and the people are great."neigh_north
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.