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Contractor Buys Own Asphalt Plant for $23M Job

Fri May 12, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle



South Carolina contractor Marlon Weaver bought his own asphalt plant to ensure quality and dependability, when he was awarded a $23- million bid to complete the final section of Highway 38/501 from Myrtle Beach to I-95 in the South Carolina counties of Marion and Dillon.

“It was the time to do it. Having my own ADM [Asphalt Drum Mixers] plant helps get the quality of work I desire and to get it done in a timely manner,” said Weaver, owner of Weaver Company Inc. in Conway, SC.

Based on subbing asphalt work in the past, Weaver felt buying the stationary plant at 6916 Highway 501 in Latta, SC, “right alongside the job” was a good investment. His current job calls for 130,000 tons of asphalt. Weaver will also sell asphalt to other contractors, but it is primarily for his company’s projects.

Weaver called the $5.5- to $6-million investment in the asphalt plant, “the last piece of the puzzle” for his company.

“The asphalt division makes the Weaver Company complete,” he said.

Weaver purchased Cat rollers and 20 dump trucks to support the plant, as well as hire 60 people.

“I bought it as an investment. I liked the location,” he said.

The scope of the project includes widening SC 38 and U.S. 501 to multi-lane highways and turning the intersection of the roads into an interchange in Marion County.

South Carolina transportation officials said it is the largest project in Marion County in more than 15 years. Approximately 6.6 mi. of U.S. 501/SC 38 and 6 mi. of side roads and ramps are being widened or constructed.

The current average daily traffic for the section of road is 8,600 vehicles per day, with an expected average daily traffic of 17,300 in 2025. Officials estimated 15 percent of these vehicles are trucks.

“SC 38 and U.S. 501 are primary routes utilized by tourists to access the Myrtle Beach area. Over the past 10 years, SC 38 has been widened from Bennettsville, South Carolina, to the Marion county line,” said State Highway Engineer Tony Chapman.

According to Chapman, “the completion of this phase will complete the widening of SC 38 south of Bennettsville and provide a multi-lane facility all the way to Myrtle Beach. Also, the new interchange at U.S. 501 and SC 38 will greatly improve safety at an intersection that previously had a significant accident and fatality problem.”

Buying the asphalt plant could be considered a milestone in Weaver’s professional career. He started the Weaver Company 26 years ago in May at age 22.

“I started from scratch in 1980 with one piece of equipment and one employee — me,” Weaver said.

Today, Weaver has 250 employees and owns 250 pieces of equipment including a fleet of 50 dump trucks. The company, which specializes in heavy-highway construction, is licensed to work in North and South Carolina. Weaver is a member of the Carolinas Associated General Contractors.

Weaver said the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) let the project in June 2004 and work began Sept. 13, 2004.

Weaver plans to have the job completed in November 2006, several months ahead of schedule. The SCDOT’s estimate of completion is January 2007.

He is pleased with his employees, who have done “an excellent job.”

They include Ken Smith, project manager; Pete Rabon, general superintendent; Stan Wilder, who is in charge of box culverts and drainage and Ken Batchelor in charge of grading.

“Everything has worked out good on the job,” said Weaver.

Between 35 and 40 employees work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. on the job anywhere from five days a week to six days. “Whatever, it takes,” he added.

According to Smith, there are at least a half dozen subcontractors including Herndon Inc., a South Carolina company doing the grassing along the highway.

“The biggest challenge on the job was getting across Catfish Swamp. We had to drain part of the swamp to put in a double line of 10-by-10 box culverts. We had to do a lot of undercutting and backfill,” said Weaver.

For his current project, Weaver is subbing bridgework, seeding, grassing, water and sewer. The bridgework is being done by Dellinger of Monroe, NC.

The project involves bringing in approximately 500,000 cu. yds. of dirt for fill and more than 400,000 cu. yds. of unclassified dirt to build a road and bridge approaches.

Weaver’s heavy equipment includes the following John Deere machines purchased from Van Lott Inc.: 672D motorgrader; 624 and 724 wheel loaders; and a 330C excavator. He bought two new graders from Van Lott for the project.

He also owns Caterpillar equipment purchased from Blanchard Machinery in Florence, SC. Cat equipment includes 850 bulldozers and 330 excavators. Weaver uses a 450 Hitachi in the pit to load dump trucks.

The project is being constructed with federal funds through the Pee Dee Council of Governments Bonding Program.

Stan Shealy, a SCDOT spokesman, said the project is part of the agency’s accelerated construction program. Through innovative financing, South Carolina has overcome a last place position for federal funds and has launched an unprecedented $5 billion worth of road construction contracts. CEG