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Gelder Brings Half Century of Experience to Raleigh Streets

By: Giles Lambertson

Spring came early to North Carolina, and crews of Gelder and Associates Inc. got a quick start on a summer-long project to repave 170 streets in Raleigh.

The veteran paving company won a NC Department of Transportation and city contract to rework and resurface streets in every district of Raleigh.

Rains in April caused some early disruption of the work. But the next month, temperatures were unseasonably warm and the asphalt was being laid in mid-summer conditions: hot and fast.

One Saturday morning in mid-May found a Gelder crew sweeping Leigh Street, a short artery that runs through the Spring Forest Business Center on the north side of the city.

Motorists kept trying to enter the street, darting through orange cones the crew had set in place at intersections. Workers shook their heads.

“They have always come to the car wash this way, and they can’t believe they can’t come this way this morning,” said one worker, as a small pickup truck slipped by a cone and onto a side street. The worker then walked over and moved the cones to better block the street.

The company’s employees seem to know their individual tasks and perform them congenially and skillfully as a team.

One employee operated a Rosco RB48 sweeper, brushing to the curb the gravel, dirt and trash that it collected as it methodically moved outward from the center of the street. Two others walked the length of the street with paving superintendent Glenn Herrin as Herrin measured and spray-marked the path the paver would follow.


At the north end of the roadway, Thomas McLean polished a shiny new 2000 Rosco Maximizer 3 oil distributor, awaiting the call to lay down the film that precedes the paver. While he waited, he checked under the hood of the International 4700 on which the Maximizer was fitted.

Then he polished the rig’s mirrors before climbing into the cab and taking it to the Green Street end of the roadway. There he opened the distributor’s wings and let the oil flow.

Moments later, a Cedarapids CR 451 Grayhound paver was backed to the oiled-area. A small load of asphalt was dumped at the intersection for Gelder laborers to spread evenly.

By 8 a.m., one of the company’s Mack quad-axle dump trucks smoothly reversed into position at the front of the paver. The truck raised its bed and the crew began the day’s methodical covering of the street with new asphalt material.

Trailing the paving machine was a trio of compactors. Working in sequence were operators on Ingersoll-Rand 3022 and Bomag BW5AS drum rollers and a Rosco Tru-Pac 915 rubber-tired roller. The new black roadway looked slick in the morning heat.

The impression that the Gelder work force is indeed a thoroughly experienced one was confirmed later by a conversation with a Gelder vice president, George Marsh.

“Out of our 55 employees, 35 have been here five years or longer,” he calculated. “We have some long-time good ones.” Marsh cited Bill Mitchell, who has been with the company more than 30 years, and grading superintendent Willie Johnson.

The family-owned business offers inducements and favorable working conditions in exchange for worker loyalty. It offers safety bonuses, for instance, and profit-sharing. Marsh said he tries to have crews work “reasonable hours,” none of them at night, “and we don’t plan to work Saturdays.”

The necessary Saturday work on Leigh Street was a consequence of April rain. Some downtown streets in this project also must be resurfaced on days other than during the week. Such weekend rescheduling happens eight or 10 times a year, Marsh said, almost apologetically.

“We’re a small company,” Marsh said of the employee-friendly policies. “A good employee can go straight to the top.”

The Raleigh street-paving contract runs into October. In all, Gelder will lay 52,200 metric tons (58,000 tons) of asphalt and unload another 7,200 metric tons (8,000 tons) of roadway patching material.

The contract also calls for extensive milling of old pavement on some streets, which Gelder subcontracted to Lanford Brothers of Roanoke, VA.

A major supplier of heavy equipment to Gelder is Tom Bailey Motors of Rocky Mount, NC. Bailey Motors is an authorized sales and service company for Mack trucks, Clark trailers and Travis dump trailers.

The company has been supplying equipment for 60 years, serving central and eastern North Carolina from Burlington to the coast. Gelder and Associates is a steady customer.

It has bought six Mack RD 690 or RD 688 quad-axle dump trucks from Bailey, the most recent one in May. The trucks all have been configured with Virginian super light dump bodies, either aluminum or steel. The bodies are built in Richlands, VA.

Bailey sales representative Nelson Whisnant has done much of the supplying of equipment to Gelder.

“Gelder is an extremely weight-sensitive hauler,” Whisnant said of the truck purchases, “and they are hauling about as much tonnage as anyone can haul. Those effectively are 23-ton trucks.”

Whisnant, who has been selling equipment for 17 years, the last eight with Bailey, also has sold two Mack CH 613 tandem tractor trucks to Gelder. One pulls a low-boy trailer and the other an equipment hauler.

Gelder and Associates is in its 47th year of operation. It began as a ready mix operation in 1953 and switched to asphalt work in the 1960s. The company as bought from Clarence Gelder in 1983 and concentrates on surfacing parking lots and streets.

“We do a lot of parking lots and subdivision,” said Marsh, adding that highway work may be in the company’s future. His father, Clyde, is president of the firm. A brother, Bob, also is a vice president.

The company’s headquarters and equipment yard are south of Raleigh, between Garner and Fuquay-Varina. That area is facing rapid development as the building boom in the area takes on a new Southern focus.

In anticipation of the boom, the company erected an asphalt plant four years ago. The plant is a 315-metric-ton (350 ton) Cedarapids counter-flow model.

Marsh was in junior high school when his father bought the firm and began to introduce him to the construction industry. He subsequently graduated from NC State University. Now he and his brother believe the Marsh family will continue to direct the fortunes of the firm for some time to come.

“My brother and I hope and plan to carry through for the next generation,” he said.