When Lee County, Fla., banned blasting a few years ago, Lee Mar Building & Construction Corp. had to find another way to complete its jobs.
“We were looking for new ways to dig,” said Vice President Butch Felts. “We had heard about the Vermeer 1255 Land Leveler and went to see a demo of the machine. We started out renting one because we weren’t sure it would work in the rock conditions here in Lee County.”
But after some time with the machine out in the field, Felts made it a permanent part of the Lee Mar fleet.
He said the Vermeer works well in the varied conditions of Lee County, which usually include approximately 5 ft. (1.5 m) of rock.
“The rock can change over 100 feet; some of it will be dry, some wet and the hardness changes,” Felts said. “When we go onto a site to build a lake, we first take off approximately 5 feet of overburden. Then we set up a pattern cutting 18 to 20 inches at a time and step down.”
The machine produces 3-in. (7.6 cm) minus limerock, which Lee Mar uses for fill, sub-base or base material, depending on the job.
While the contractor has the right tools to do the job, Felts admits lake-building can still be tricky.
“Since the lakes we are building are usually 12- to 20-feet deep, we leave a thin layer of rock for the excavator to work on,” Felts said. “The material under the rock is very unstable so we don’t want to cut through it. We try to leave around 6 inches of rock, but this can be tricky because, while the rock is level on top, the bottom varies a lot.”
To tackle this challenge, the Lee Mar crew sets up a pattern in which the excavator doing the final digging never has to set up on the last cut.
“This way, the excavator has a stable platform to work on and can dig out the unstable material to the proper depth and break out the last thin layer of rock,” Felts said.
The Vermeer Land Leveler is capable of a 12-ft.-wide (3.7 m) cut and, because the head is adjustable in two planes, it can keep the cut level. Its production varies depending on the rock conditions and can go from as little as 1 ft. per minute to 10 ft. per minute (.3 to 3 m). Lee Mar averages 5 ft. (1.5 m) per minute with its machine.
In addition to using it for earthwork, Lee Mar also breaks out the Vermeer on road projects “to cut the corridor, so that when the subs come in, the digging has already been done,” Felts said.
This translates to a faster, less expensive project for the subs since they are just coming in and digging in the dirt without having to cut their own trench.
Because of the conditions Lee Mar encounters, Felts said the company has been a bit of a test subject for Vermeer.
“We have had to work out some problems, but Vermeer has been good to work with. They have helped us on the types of welds for the stands that hold the teeth pockets. We are now trying out some new type of drive chains that they think will work better,” he said.
Felts said moving the machine to the job site has not been a problem. It takes a day a set up and take down.
“The machine has worked well overall,” he said. “It has eliminated the ’punch and crunch’ method we used to use, where we had to use an excavator to cut out a block of rock, then went in and broke it up with a punch and finally crushed it. It has made it a one-step process. We have had a considerable time savings and cut our costs substantially.”
Based in Ft. Myers, Fla., Lee Mar is owned by Ronnie, Edwina and Butch Felts. Ronnie Felts is the company’s president and oversees approximately 100 employees. The company primarily prepares sites for residential developments and builds lakes. It also is certified by the Florida Department of Transportation and Lee County to build roads, but, because of the volume of private-sector work, it does very little government work. CEG Staff