Downrite Sifts Yesterday’s Debris for Tomorrow’s Development

Wed June 23, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Giles Lambertson

South Florida construction has boomed right through the economic slow down experienced by the rest of the nation. Strong demand for expansion has led to some building sites being reclaimed from property previously designated for lesser uses, such as landfills.

Powerscreen equipment is helping contractors sort through these dump sites, separating the debris of yesterday from the good soil in which tomorrow’s residential subdivisions and commercial outlets can be planted.

Downrite Engineering is one total land development company fully involved in such reclamation work. For example, the Miami contractor is developing “Lakes by the Bay” on what previously was a landfill.

Downrite turned to its Powerscreen Titan to clean up the site. The Titan is designed for projects involving medium to large volumes of material, handling up to 400 tons (360 t) per hour.

“We’re trying to get the good top soil out of the dump,” said Sam LoBue, Downrite’s chief executive, and a fan of Powerscreen equipment. The company is taking delivery on a second Titan and has a washing plant on order.

The dealer with whom Downrite has been dealing for more than a decade is Powerscreen of Florida, its office in Lakeland. Dennis Grant and Barry McKeown own that sales and rental dealership as well as Powerscreen of Georgia located near Atlanta.

Florida dealership salesman Steve Simpson described the Lakes by the Bay site as “out in the boonies,” though he acknowledges it is quite buildable once the integrity of the soil is reestablished.

“Everything you can think of is buried there,” Simpson said, citing such unnatural soil additives as refrigerators.

The Titan gobbles up and spits out just such material because it is an inline screening machine. As such, it lacks the turns and corners in which old pieces of lumber — and refrigerators — can get hung up.

“The Titan is free flowing,” said Simpson, “so larger material can move through without getting trapped.”

The machine’s double-deck screens systematically drop the small stuff and keep the larger material moving toward a collection point. Mesh is available that could separate out material as small as 1 millimeter (.04 in.) “if a person really, really wanted to,” said Simpson.

LoBue’s two Titans are on tracks. Some earlier generations of Powerscreen used by Downrite were tire-mounted, but all the machines at Downrite move exclusively on tracks now.

On another of Downrite’s estimated 100 job sites, a Powerscreen 1400 Warrior sifts muck to stockpile good landscape material. The high-capacity Warrior is a good choice for the high-volume task because there is a lot of muck in the area and a lot of need for landscape soil. The Warrior can screen up to 550 tons (495 t) per hour.

Its hopper has a capacity of nearly 9 cu. yds. (6.8 cu m). The hopper’s hardened steel sides hydraulically fold up for transport. The unit is powered by a 109-hp Caterpillar engine.

“The Warrior is a very versatile machine,” said Simpson, noting that it handles equally well aggregate, coal, crushed stone — or muck.

One of the more imposing Powerscreens operated by Downrite is one of the smallest in the manufacturer’s 26-model lineup. It is a Powertrack, a compact but durable scalping and conveying unit.

Looking like a battlefield tank with a conveyor extension instead of a barrel, the Powertrack is built to handle rock and demolition concrete but it also can fine-screen smaller material.

Nor does this “tank” have a driver: It is remote controlled, as are all Powerscreen machines.

The Powertrack fits comfortably on a low-boy trailer and can be operational on site in as few as two minutes. LoBue likes that because no moving permits are needed: Just drive it on a low-boy and go.

Downrite is using the Powertrack to segregate larger and smaller material on various project sites. The compact machine is equally at home on innercity reclamation sites where working conditions are more congested.

A 97-hp Deutz turbodiesel moves and operates the 21.5-ton (19 t) machine.

Mobility is the real story of Powerscreen. For approximately 40 years, the Irish firm has been building portable screening and washing equipment.

The machines were crafted originally to screen sand and gravel in Irish quarries and were relatively small — 7 metric tons — and mobile. Behind the mobility was an idea: Keep the screening machines close to the face of the quarries so that the material being dug away can be efficiently processed.

Eventually, the concept of mobile screening became popular and the Powerscreen market grew to 40 countries. For more than a quarter of a century, Powerscreen USA in Louisville, KY, has been the company’s distribution center.

In 1999, Terex Corporation, a diversified global manufacturer based in Connecticut, bought the company. Terex markets its full range of construction products in more than 100 countries.

Another Terex product that Downrite Engineering executives utilize in their numerous job assignments in Dade and Broward counties is the BL-Pegson Trakpactor.

This impact crusher machine is used to reduce rock to roadway aggregate. To accomplish this, it bangs away at the material with four manganese or chrome hammers in a rotor turning at approximately 600 rpm.

The 24-ft. conveyor is fully skirted and suppression sprays help settle dust. The unit weighs approximately 34 tons (31 t).

All of these machines are more specialized than, say, a backhoe or excavator. But that doesn’t mean the equipment is parked more often than the other equipment, said LoBue. “Every one works every day.”

The contractor said that “in south Florida, we don’t know what a recession is. These are the best times we’ve ever had in 22 years.”

Downrite Engineering is a family enterprise, with Sam’s father Joe Sr. overseeing earthwork and brother Joe supervising water and sewer work. More than 200 employees work the many projects.

And why does the company choose Powerscreens?

“They’ve done a good job. No reason to change,” LoBue said. “They’re easy to maintain and the parts availability is great.”

Downrite’s chief executive also expressed satisfaction with the Lakeland Powerscreen dealership. “The guys you deal with are very easy to deal with.”

The Powerscreen salesman with whom LoBue long has been dealing, Simpson, agreed that the quality of the equipment and the people behind it indeed make the difference.

“It keeps us in the forefront,” he said.

The salesman added that the various applications of the machines are wider ranging than a person might think.

After Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida in 1993, Powerscreens worked “round the clock” reclaiming soil and sand from the debris.

Under less tragic circumstances, a Powerscreen Commander shredder works the playing field in Pro Player Stadium in Miami. It shreds, grinds and reconditions the soil in the stadium between Miami Dolphins football and Florida Marlins baseball seasons.

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