Elusive Komatsu HM400 Spotted on N.Y. Contractors Job Site

Mon January 08, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

The business was started in 1982 by Michael Ritter as a residential tree service. The company expanded rapidly in the 1990s after Frank Paratore purchased an interest in its operation. Today the company operates as a large enterprise performing excavation, site work, demolition and environmental work.

In 1994, Frank Paratore bought into the company with Michael Ritter as president. Paratore had a background as a certified public accountant (CPA) and Ritter was one of his customers, but they had known each other since they were children.

“Michael was one of my good friends and I have had a fascination with heavy equipment for most of my life. It seemed like a natural progression for Michael and me to become partners,” said Paratore.

Today, the company known as Ritter & Paratore Contracting Inc. has grown to handle a volume of $10 million worth of excavation, site work and demolition a year. Its market area is 90 mi. from Utica, N.Y., which includes Albany to the east, Binghamton to the south, Rochester to the west and Watertown to the north.

“Each year our projects seem to become larger and more complicated,” said Paratore, vice president of the company.

Currently, Ritter & Paratore Contracting is working on a $4.5-million Lowe’s project on Route 5 in Herkimer, N.Y., which includes excavation of 400,000 yds. (365,760 m) of mined on-site material; installation of all utilities — all sewer, water, gas, conduit for electric and parking lot lighting — and completing pad preparation to subgrade elevation.

In addition, the company will construct a 150,000-gal. (567,812 L) fire protection tank manufactured from a poured concrete foundation and a welded steel tank; creation of a detention pond; and all curbing and paving on site, which will include laying 10 acres (4 ha) of parking lot surface.

“We have done other work for Lowe’s sites but the biggest challenge by far on this project besides [dealing with] tremendous amounts of rainfall is that all materials for this project have to be mined on site. This means that no excavated dirt is being removed from the site and any aggregate material or fill needed for the project is being mined on the site,” explained Paratore.

When the engineers first looked at this site, it was evident that the entire property needed to be raised in height by 9 ft. (2.7 m) and the approach of mining on site was the only way to make this project economically feasible.

“A significant amount of gravel deposit was found on the property. Unfortunately, the gravel deposit is in a wet area below the water line. Therefore, all gravel being removed comes out wet and must be stockpiled and turned occasionally to dry it out,” Paratore said.

In addition to the gravel, the entire site was covered with 2 to 5 ft. (.6 to 1.5 m) of high-grade river bottom dirt. Previously, the site was a vegetable farm and as the company excavated the topsoil, it had to deal with large amounts of rain. In June, the site received more than 12 in. of rain flooding the area. The soil became super saturated and before the soil could be reused it also had to be stockpiled and turned before it was dry enough to use. The stockpiles of dirt and gravel are typically 7,000 to 8,000 yds. (6,401 to 7,315 m) in size.

“The rain has created significant delays that could not possibly be worked around. Our challenge now is to get the project completed as close to on schedule as possible. The project was started on June 12, 2006, and the closest we can come to a completion date is the spring or summer of 2007,” said Paratore.

To move 6,000 to 7,000 yds. (5,486 to 6,401 m) of material each day, Ritter & Paratore has approximately 20 pieces of company-owned earthmoving equipment on the site including 40-ton (36 t) articulated trucks and excavators ranging in size from 70,000 to 115,000 lbs. (31,751 to 52,163 kg) in addition to several dozers.

Also on the job site, is a brand new Komatsu HM400 40-ton (36 t) articulated truck rented from Anderson Equipment’s Syracuse, N.Y., location. Although the HM400 was introduced to Komatsu dealers a few years ago, its availability is limited due to the high demand for the truck, explained Anderson Equipment.

However, Anderson Equipment was able to supply a Komatsu HM400 for Ritter & Paratore’s project and the truck features have not gone unnoticed by its operators working on the job site.

“The truck has two full-size seats in the cab, which not everyone offers, and the truck certainly comes with all the bells and whistles,” said Steve Brooks, Ritter & Paratore’s superintendent.

“It is a very powerful truck that is extremely surefooted. Virtually every other truck on our site has been stuck at one time or another, except for the Komatsu. The truck has an extremely comfortable ride and is as fast as or faster than any other truck on our site,” explained Brooks.

“Our operators tell us that the cab also gives them increased visibility, which is a real safety factor. For my money the Komatsu is the best truck that we have here on the site,” he said.

Ritter & Paratore Contracting has had a long relationship with Anderson Equipment and its Syracuse Manager Tom Collins and with Stephen Smith its sales representative.

“We have a long-standing relationship with Anderson Equipment. They have always come through with great parts and service reliability. They are always one to go the extra mile to make sure we are satisfied. Anderson Equipment offers a great product line with Komatsu, which give us little or no down time and tremendous parts availability when needed,” said Paratore.

In addition to the Lowe’s project, Ritter & Paratore Contracting has worked on other notable jobs including work in Syracuse, N.Y., on the Solan and Kirkpatrick streets reconstruction. This project involved putting in all new roads, sidewalks, curbs and all utilities underground

This project was to rehabilitate an area that will be known as the gateway to the Destiny USA Project, which will ultimately result in Syracuse being the home of the largest mall in North America. It was for this project that the American Public Works Association named Ritter & Paratore Contracting “Contractor of the Year” in 2004. CEG

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