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Poland Sand & Gravel Unearths ’Diamond’ in the Rough

Fri August 25, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Kate Zanoni



In 1996, Scott Rommel was in the market to acquire additional land for his gravel pit operations in Poland, NY. He ultimately decided that purchasing the land adjacent to his existing operation was the best solution for expanding his business.

Already seasoned in the construction industry at the time, Rommel had been working as a subcontractor on a bridge job with J.H. Malloy in Poland, NY, when he decided to expand his company. For Rommel, making the purchase just made sense. He could initially sell the material to Malloy for the bridge job, use materials being produced for his own future jobs, and expand the retail business that the operation already had.

As a result, Rommel founded Poland Sand & Gravel, which currently occupies a total of approximately 70 acres in Poland, NY. The company’s eight employees serve customers in Herkimer and Oneida counties in central New York State.

Besides the standard aggregate products, Rommel also has developed a niche for several specialty aggregates, including filtered sands and specialty stones, such as products used in sand traps on golf courses and water treatment plants.

He also has a successful market producing roof stone, an aggregate product that is used in a coating on large rubber roofs, particularly commercial buildings with flat roofs. The stony roof coating is used to protect the rubber roof from potential damage.

Poland Sand & Gravel also produces the materials that are used in many truck run-offs, located at the bottom of very steep hills. In case of brake failure, a truck runs off into a 1,000-ft. emergency exit that is filled with small clean round stone to help stop the vehicle.

“We are very aware that independent operations like ours have become a rarity,” said Rommel. “In order to survive we have to be service-driven. By making specialty products and giving tremendous service to small aggregate users, we have been able to maintain a niche.”

A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned

The company’s small size has certainly been a challenge in a heavily regulated industry, but with the continually increasing costs of fuel, it also has been difficult for Poland Sand & Gravel to keep pace with the increased cost of operation.

Therefore, when purchasing equipment, Rommel usually buys new or late model machines. His small fleet of loaders includes Kawasakis, Hyundais, and Doosans (Daewoos). He also owns three Euclid R-35 rigid framed trucks for transporting material around the pit, and two impact crushers and one cone crusher for processing materials.

Besides its crushing, screening and washing equipment, Poland Sand & Gravel also owns two tri-axle dump trucks, a tractor-trailer, a single-axle dump truck, and a stone slinger that is used for shooting cellars. The stone slinger has been particularly valuable to Rommel because it allows him to offer another service to his customers.

New Iron Makes a Difference

Several years ago, Rommel was producing a lot of road sand, so he purchased an Extec 5000 screening plant and a set of scales to improve the plant’s efficiencies. This spider style fully portable screening plant with side discharge conveyors has helped Poland Sand & Gravel prosper. The machine sets up in approximately 20 minutes, allowing Rommel to make up to four different products at a time.

“We purchased the Extec because it was obviously made with quality in mind and it had design features that were not available from competitive screening plants,” said Rommel. “We felt it was a very innovative machine. We purchased the machine from Joe Sidonio of Upstate Screens and Crushers.”

Poland Sand & Gravel’s working relationship with Upstate Screens and Crushers has helped both businesses thrive.

“Joe was just getting his business started. Our two businesses have kind of grown together,” said Rommel.

The Extec’s dependability coupled with Upstate Screens and Crushers’ dedication to customer service, have served Rommel well.

“That Extec machine has given us excellent reliability [and] the Extec screening plants run very efficiently, especially their Deutz water-cooled diesel engine,” added Rommel. “On the rare occasion that we have needed parts, accessibility has been good. We can usually get the part we need delivered on the same day if necessary. The support from Upstate Screens and Crushers has always been good.”

In addition, Rommel appreciates Sidonio’s willingness to transcend expectations and rise above basic business transactions.

“Joe Sidonio has always been very honest with me,” added Rommel, stating that the equipment dealer always has his best interest in mind when it comes to equipment purchases.

Extec C-12 Performs With Precision

Rommel currently has an Extec C-12 portable tracked jaw crusher that is on rent from Upstate Screens and Crushers to help the company produce road base mix for contracts in local townships. The tracked Extec C-12 has been a suitable match for the project, especially since Rommel needed a boost in feed size to accommodate the larger rock.

“The machine has been very reliable and simple to operate and has given us very high production rates,” he said.

Rommel is not alone in his appreciation for the Extec. His employees also agreed that its versatility and reliability are significant to Poland Sand & Gravel’s productivity.

“The Extec C-12 is doing exactly what we were looking for it to do,” said Brad Stuckey, quarry manager of Poland Sand & Gravel. “We are processing very dirty material with a lot of overburden [and] scalping the material. The Extec does the finest job scalping of any machine we have used.”

These days, Poland Sand & Gravel is also using the Extec C-12 for heavier applications.

“The materials are from the Herkimer Diamond Mines, which is located just a few miles away,” said Stuckey. “This material has a lot of dolomite, which is a very hard material. We are using the C-12 to remove dirty material out of shot rock and to crush the shot rock down to a six-inch minus material that we can run through our cone crusher.

“The C-12 is processing material faster than we can feed it with the excavator. Currently, we could use a larger excavator with a larger bucket size to really reach the full processing potential of the Extec C-12.”

Separating and processing hard rock-forming minerals such as dolomite is no easy task, but Stuckey remains optimistic.

“Right now, we are processing 300 to 350 tons per hour,” added Stuckey. “I am very comfortable with Extec machines. We have owned the model 5000 screening plant for nearly 10 years and we have processed millions of tons through that plant. Through all of that use, we have had one belt and one pump failure.”