OSWEGO – Jeffrey Hinderliter, a 35-year-old professional engineer fresh from the state Department of Transportation, has been named the city’s first official City Engineer since the retirement of Anthony Leotta in 2014.
If one is impressed by anything about Hinderliter, it is the obvious enthusiasm and wealth of knowledge he brings to the job. The man is a virtual encyclopedia on such topics as roads, asphalt compaction, concrete, permeable paving, water, sewer separation, machinery, design, architecture and environmental concerns. And there’s little doubt that just barely touches on the information this man bursts with. His experience also includes highway and bridge design, culvert rehabilitation, structural design for retaining walls, and bridge evaluations.
For the past 11 years he worked in the Utica area for the DOT. Prior to that, he was with the state Department of State. He graduated from SUNY Polytechnic with a bachelor’s of science degree. He is a full-fledged, certified professional engineer, and he has the stamp to prove it.
“I’m excited to be here,” he said. “It seems like a great place to be.”
It’s a place he’s familiar with. His wife of seven years is from this area. Her parents live in Minetto.
As he told it, “We had talked about potentially moving up to this area, and I had said to my wife back in 2014, ‘If an opportunity ever opens up, we’ll look into it.’ We were here for a graduation party for a friend in July and one of my wife’s friends said, ‘You guys should move up here,’ and my wife said, ‘The man’s got to get a job up here,” and jokingly I said, ‘Hey, if the city’s hiring, I’ll put in.’ And I happened to look on the city’s website, and they were! And I was like ‘Well, now what do I do, ‘cause I said I would. So, I threw my name in the hat and it all worked from there.”
Maybe Oswego’s just lucky. Maybe the stars just aligned. But it’s hard to imagine Oswego finding someone more qualified or more enthused than Hinderliter. He’ll be well-paid, starting at $110,000 a year, but he will definitely be saving the city on expenses for services it was previously required to outsource. “We’re hoping to start doing in-house design. With my design experience with the Department of Transportation, I have the knowledge and skills to be able to put contracts together and do the design work, to actually do the design drawings, to make the decisions on what the roads should be, the materials, how wide, what the radius should be, all of those design decisions that the city’s been paying consultants for, we should be able to make in-house. And that should be a savings to the city.
“I also have two years working with the Department of State writing building codes, and I’ve done residential design and a lot of structural work. So, as they start to do some of that work on Breitbeck Park, I may be able to help the city with some architectural services, doing drafting and design, to also try to keep that as much in-house as we can.
“By keeping it in-house, we gain the most control over what happens to it. We gain control over cost, so it’s definitely our goal to do some of that right here.
“But as the list of projects grows, your time shrinks. So, it’s going to be a balancing act until we can figure out what kind of staff we’ll have the ability to hire to support me in that work. Next year’s budget is set, so once Bob (Robert Johnson) retires, we probably won’t be able to hire someone (that year). We’ll probably have to wait until the next year’s budget to put a new person in.”
So, until then, it will be all on Hinderliter alone.
“My philosophy is I’m a public servant. It’s why I went into civil engineering. It’s why I went into the Department of Transportation. I’ve been hired to serve this city now.”
For one thing, there’ll be no more need to pay outside engineers to stamp designs as required by law.
“The engineer has to be able to understand and put their liability on the line,” said Hinderliter, “so that costs something. So now, I’ll be able to do that for the DPW or any other of the departments in the city.”
But he’ll be doing much more than that.
“In the spring, we’ll be starting up in the third ward doing sewer separation there. That’ll be Phase Three of a four-phase plan. The city essentially has to pay for the first three phases, and then there will be money available for the fourth phase,” he said.
And in a couple weeks, he’ll be touring every city-owned facility “to get an eye on everything that we own, and we can start scoping out what we need to do to maintain what we have and how we can improve it.”
There’s also a repair needed within the eastside tunnel. Hinderliter will be working on that. Gates are presently up preventing pedestrian access.
He’ll also be involved in the rehab of City Hall.
Aside from the importance of physical projects, Hinderliter realizes the importance of Oswego’s natural resources.
“Lake Ontario is a unique asset. The freshwater lakes, they need to be protected. Our rivers, our streams, those are assets that belong to everyone, and we need to be responsible with them.
“This is a unique city that makes it special, and makes it a unique challenge,” he said.
By all appearances, it seems Jeffrey Hinderliter is very much up to that challenge.