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Hamlet Sees the Light With Highway Constructors

Wed June 14, 2000 - Southeast Edition
James Ryder

In the small town of Hamlet, NC, with a population slightly more than 6,000 people, the largest development project in the state has begun.

Carolina Power & Light began construction in early February on a power plant that may host up to seven natural gas-powered turbines. When complete, the power plant will enable CP&L to disperse power literally anywhere it may be needed.

But before the plant becomes a reality, site preparation for the 46.9 hectares (116 acres) must be completed, and that is where Highway Constructors Inc. excels.

Highway Constructors Inc. is located in Marston, NC, and is just a few miles from the job site in Hamlet. While it has been around for many years, it has gone through a number of name changes. President Tom Carr purchased Southeastern Asphalt Company in 1984 and changed the name to Highway Constructors Inc. It has since been bought again by the Apac Corporation in March of 1999. Apac, a subsidiary company of Ashland, is one of the largest asphalt paving companies in the nation and now serves 14 states with more than 14,000 employees.

“Our official name is Apac Carolina Inc., Highway Constructors Division,” said Scott Williams, operations analyst for Highway Constructors. “But it is important to Apac that we retain our hometown image, so we still go by the name Highway Constructors, the name everyone in the area knows us by.

“In fact, Apac now has more than 50 divisions and each division operates pretty much on their own,” continued Williams. “Many of the customers don’t even know there has been any kind of change.”

After being bought by Apac, Carr has remained as division president overseeing all operations from the Marston facility.

Highway Constructors is a versatile company. “With 140 employees, we are able to do it all,” said Terry Jordan, division vice president. “Everything from grading, clearing and asphalt paving to utility work, including water lines and sewer lines. We are generally the crew that goes in to a job site at the very beginning and stays all the way until the final asphalt paving is complete.”

“We work with a lot of developers,” continued Williams. “We have gone in and cleared sites, put down storm drainage, and installed utilities for just about all the major subdivisions in the area. That also includes cutting roads in, grading them, putting a base down and then asphalting them.”

The Carolina Power & Light project began as an $80-million venture and quickly grew to more than $450 million. “One reason is that the site they selected has turned out to be exceptionally good,” said Williams. “Everything has worked out so smoothly that the power company decided they wanted to increase the size of it.”

Highway Constructors’ portion of the job began at $1.5 million. “Now it’s over $2 million thanks to the additional work Carolina Power & Light has given us,” added Williams.

Carolina Power & Light’s power plant, also called a “peaking generation station,” will typically be operated about 1,000 hours per year, usually during the hottest and coldest day of the year. The plant will meet the increased customer demand for electricity and can be fueled by either natural gas or fuel oil. The 46.9-hectare (116 acre) site will not be used entirely for the new plant. Most of the acreage will be left natural and act as a buffer between the generating facility and its nearest neighbors.

The power generation plant is part of Carolina Power & Light’s plans to build more than 7,000 megawatts of primarily gas-fueled electric generation within the next decade to match increasing customer demand. The plant also will increase the shrinking electric reserve capacity in the Southeast.

In addition to the plant, Carolina Power & Light also is building a natural gas pipeline to serve the electrical power plant. “The 82-mile long pipeline will connect the new power plant here in Richmond County to the Williams Energy Transcontinental interstate pipeline in Iredell County,” said Williams. The steel 76.2-centimeter (30 in.) diameter pipeline also will accommodate extension of natural gas service to future Carolina Power & Light power plants. Expected cost for the pipeline project is $100 million.

Highway Constructors has been on the job site since Feb. 3 of this year. “There is more than 316,000 yards of material that needs to be moved, rearranged and put back together,” said Steve Cooke, Highway Constructors’ project superintendent for the Carolina Power & Light project. “We’ve already moved more than 190,000 yards so far.” At present, Highway Constructors has several trackhoes, 30 dump trucks, and assorted dozers and graders at the site.

“On top of all the grading and asphalt work, Richmond County has also awarded us the job of extending the water line to the site,” continued Cooke. When it is fully operational, the plant is expected to use 200,000 gallons of water per day. Even with the additional work, Highway Constructors remains on schedule. “We are still right on schedule and Phase 1 of the project should be completed by June of this year.” Highway Constructors will remain at the site past June due to some add-on work requested by Carolina Power & Light.

Carolina Power & Light sought out Highway Constructors for the project. “They were real interested in our company,” said Williams. “They did their homework and were very comfortable knowing that we were capable of doing the work they had in mind.”

The power company also was interested, and very concerned, about the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. “Carolina Power & Light knew that the environmental department would be taking a long and hard look at this project,” said Williams. “They wanted a company out there working that they knew they could trust.”

Because of the enormity of the site and its proximity to the town of Hamlet, environmental precautions were of the utmost importance. “It wasn’t something that was new to us,” continued Williams. “We are very accustomed to adhering to strict environmental guidelines.” This became obvious when an environmental inspector visited the job site recently “He told us it was an exceptional site and that it was obvious we had taken every measure to make sure that all environmental concerns were addressed. He even said we had gone above and beyond what was called for.”

To help protect the environment, Highway Constructors built two permanent sediment basins, two sediment traps, and emergency spillways. Both of the sediment basins are equipped with riprap stone overflow.

Less than a mile away from the Carolina Power & Light project, Highway Constructors has another crew working on the U.S. 74 bypass project.

“This project will help divert traffic around the towns of Hamlet and Rockingham,” said Jordan. “We have been on the site now for nearly three years and are expecting to finish our sections by October of this year.”

The U.S. 74 bypass project has been divided up into six different sections. “Of those six sections, Highway Constructors is responsible for five of them,” continued Jordan.

When complete, Highway Constructors will have laid down 315,000 metric tons (350,000 tons) of asphalt and more than 90,000 metric tons (100,000 tons) of aggregate base course along a 22.5-kilometer (14 mi.) stretch of highway.

Tom Carr has brought Highway Constructors a long way. “We are a $15-million company right now and continue to grow,” said Williams. “When Tom bought this company in ’84 there were maybe two or three trucks and a paver or two. Now we have 30 trucks, five pavers, and more than 200 pieces of rolling stock equipment. And of all that equipment Highway Constructors either owns it or is in the process of buying it.”

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