March 2, 2011
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Commissioner’s support team welcomes new staff

By Becky Dahlberg

three women

From left, Carol Ness, Nancy Bennett and Heidi Bryand take on new roles as part of the commissioner’s support team. Photo by Becky Dahlberg

The commissioner’s support team recently underwent a few changes as part of the latest department reorganization.

Two new employees joined the team, with additional staff vacancies scheduled to be filled in the near future. In addition, a few other employees are taking on new roles.

Meet the support team

Carol Ness joined Mn/DOT in December 2010 and serves as the front desk receptionist as part of the commissioner’s support staff. She’s involved in various projects and is responsible for answering calls and performing administrative support duties, including ordering office supplies and processing retirement certificates.

So what is the best part of her job?

“Working with a dedicated, talented team that strives to make a meaningful difference,” Ness said.

Prior to joining the department, Ness served as the receptionist for both Gov. Arne Carlson and Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Ness can be reached at 651-366-4801.

Nancy Bennett joined Mn/DOT in November 2010 as executive assistant to Scott Peterson, Government Affairs director. Bennett supports the entire Office of Government Affairs, where she tracks legislative bills, schedules appointments and keeps tabs on paperwork.

Despite her few short months with the agency, Bennett said she is already fond of providing support in her new position.

“I love the people I work with,” she said. “They are exceptionally good at their jobs and it is an honor to work with them.”

Bennett previously worked for Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services.

She can be reached at 651-366-4819.

Heidi Bryand joined Mn/DOT in 2009. She currently provides direct executive level administrative support to Bernie Arseneau, deputy commissioner and chief engineer, as well as to the commissioner’s support team, to ensure critical timelines and assignments are tracked and completed.

Bryand most recently served as the administrative assistant for both the Modal Planning & Program Management Division and the Employee & Corporate Services Division. Prior to that, she held the front desk receptionist position in the Commissioner’s Office.

Bryand’s phone number is 651-366-4828.

New ‘LifeMatters’ website provides health, wellness information

Employees have a new online resource available to them with the recent launch of LifeMatters, a program sponsored by the Minnesota State Employee Assistance Program that gives employees information and resources to help manage their health and wellness.

The website covers a variety of topics, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Cancer prevention
  • Debt management
  • Grief and loss
  • Parenting
  • Smoking

For more information, visit and enter STMN1 into the Company Code section of the sign-in page.


Women’s Transportation Seminar event set for March 8


In honor of Women's History Month, Mn/DOT is collaborating with the Women’s Transportation Seminar to promote a March 8 event and membership drive. The event will take place from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., at Hoa Bien restaurant, 1105 University Ave. W., St. Paul, Minn.

Employees interested in attending the event should RSVP to or contact Fay Cleaveland at 651-366-4192 with additional questions.

The focus of the seminar will be on the Transit Governance Audit, which will be presented by Judy Randall, Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor. Non-members who work for a public agency will be admitted at the member price of $20.

Employees can expect additional Women's History Month displays, events and announcements at Central Office throughout the month of March.


On the job: Gust Scharffbillig predicts long pothole season

By Bob Filipczak


Gust Scharffbillig, Arden Hills transportation operation supervisor for maintenance, has worked for Mn/DOT for 25 years. Photo by Kent Barnard

At the Arden Hills Truck Station, things are heating up for pothole season.

“I would say it’s going to be a long season because of the amount of snow we got, which is going to prolong the freeze/thaw cycle and increase moisture,” said Gust Scharffbillig, Arden Hills transportation operation supervisor for maintenance.

Scharffbillig started at Mn/DOT in 1986 as a maintenance worker in Eden Prairie. He now supervises between 12 and 100 workers—depending on the season. His team works on paving, shoulder maintenance, milling and traffic control. Newsline recently caught up with Scharffbillig during his current game of “Whack-a-Hole” on Twin Cities Metro area highways and interstates.

What do people need to understand about potholes?

What they don’t understand about potholes, this time of year, is our inability to get hot mix asphalt to do a permanent patch. Everything we do right now is what’s known as cold mix, which is a temporary patch. It’s a soft, pliable material we use in the wintertime. It holds, but it will come out eventually. We don’t use hot mix in the wintertime because it costs too much to heat it up to 300 degrees, and it would cool off too fast.

Most of the commercial asphalt plants will be opening mid- to late April. There is one plant that opens around the beginning of March that we can get a limited amount of hot mix from. Even with hot mix, it is tough to get it to bond this time of year because of the moisture and the ground temperatures. When we put it in the hole, it never really gets a chance to bond because the ground is still frozen. It will last longer, but it’s still not a permanent patch like we do in the summertime.

How many potholes can you fill in one day?

That’s tough to gauge. Potholes will vary based on the condition of the road. A new road is going to have less; an old road will have a lot more. As you get more, you can patch more per day because you have less drive time between patches.

How do you keep your crews safe?

We spend a lot of time and money on traffic control to keep our crews safe. A lot more of our work is done at night, especially in the metro, so we don’t impede traffic. We do try to stay off the roads as much as possible during rush hour, but if we have a hole that pops a tire or bends a rim, we have to get out there and take care of it.

air patcher at work

From left, Larry Degner, District 8 maintenance, shows Nathan Pederson, graduate engineer, how to use an air patcher to clean and fill potholes. Mn/DOT file photo

So is night safer than daytime work?

There are two ways to look at it. While more traffic causes its own issues, more traffic during the day can be safer because we back them up and slow them down. At night, there’s less traffic, but when we get hit it’s at a higher speed. It’s a double-edged sword.

We do patch both day and night. We have four full-time night crews out at the shop. The night crew concentrates primarily on the inner core, inside the I-494/I-694 loop, where traffic volumes are high. During the day, we concentrate more outside the loop.

I heard something about an air patcher.

We’ve had good success with that. It’s a slower process, but it lasts a lot longer. It uses hot oil and rock. We try to target our biggest problem potholes with that patcher—the ones on the interstate where there’s a lot of truck traffic. We own one automated patcher and have a contract to use another one.

It’s a much better patch. What we lose in time, we make up for in durability.

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