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Fort Miller Opens Doors to Better Understanding of Industry

Tue June 27, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Liz Elvin

As part of a new strategy to promote our industry, the New York State Chapter’s Highway Funding Task Force is encouraging members around the state to show off their projects.

“The industry does a lot of good things in every region every day,” said Butch Marcelle, the chairman of the public relations/grass-roots subcommittee of the task force. His company, The Fort Miller Co. Inc., broke a long-standing policy of not seeking publicity or attention to kick off the effort and provide a template for other members to follow.

On Feb. 16, Fort Miller invited a group to tour its facility and get an in-depth look at its work on a New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) project in Essex County that includes the manufacture and supply of 2,330 linear ft. of specially designed barrier wall. The group included: NYS Senator Elizabeth Little, the Adirondack Park Agency, NYSDOT Commissioner Thomas Madison, NYSDOT Region 1 Director Thomas Werner, North Elba Town Supervisor Shirley Seney, Wilmington Town Supervisor Jeanne Ashworth, NYSDOT main office and regional designers, engineers and other representatives, along with officials from the general contractor Luck Brothers Inc. and AGC Region 1 Director Dave Santos of D.A. Collins Construction Co. Inc.

While this event took place at Fort Miller’s facility, a similar event could just as easily and effectively be held at a job site or asphalt plant or other type of manufacturing facility. The goal is simply to engage as many stakeholders — including NYSDOT officials at all levels, local politicians, business owners, school officials, etc. — so that they see the good the construction industry does for their area.

“This event was not about Fort Miller,” said Marcelle. “It’s about DOT having a problem and coming to the industry to provide a solution.”

In this instance, the problem was nearly a half-mile of a laid-up stone parapet wall that had become structurally unsound. The Adirondack Park Agency, which has input over the types of materials used in the park, did not want to see concrete barrier go up. NYSDOT decided building an authentic laid-up stone wall would be both cost-and time-prohibitive.

In the middle ground lies Fort Miller Co. Inc., known for its innovative thinking and its good working relationship with both Luck Brothers and NYSDOT.

Working with the regional DOT Materials and Design Divisions, Fort Miller developed a unique process to first craft a form that would make segments of concrete look like they were constructed of Adirondack stones. Then it again worked with DOT and the APA to develop a staining system that would meet all the environmental and life span concerns.

Finally, the firm hired the husband-and-wife team of Tom and Althea Lockwood of Concrete Rock Surfaces LLC, who are using a combination of spraying and sponging techniques to stain the segments so that, when complete, the wall will look like it was built by hand.

The results are incredibly impressive. The APA’s Keith McKeever, who attended the tour, called himself “satisfied” and “happy” with the finished product. Madison noted that impressive results are to be had when both sides of the industry — public and private — come together for the good of the public.

“The public is getting a safer, aesthetically pleasing road, the park agency is getting an environmentally-sensitive solution, and our industry is doing good work,” added Marcelle.

“DOT was willing to partner; the contractor is willing to do the project right. It’s a fine example of everybody coming together to find a solution.”

Additionally, Little came away with a better understanding of how creative and dedicated the industry is when it comes to providing solutions: she also saw how the state’s investment in its transportation infrastructure benefits the local economy in a myriad of ways: providing safe roads; allowing tourism to increase; putting local companies, who buy their materials from other local companies, to work.

Although the press did not attend The Fort Miller event, they certainly should be invited; the more the word gets out, the better. Marcelle and the Highway Funding Task Force know there are many, many similar stories occurring on projects and at plants across the state and would like to encourage members to host similar events.

Even highlighting a project a year in each region would be a big step for the industry in terms of marketing itself and engaging the public in understanding what we do.

(Liz Elvin is editor of AGC’s Low Bidder magazine. This story appears courtesy of Low Bidder magazine.)

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