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Working Closely With Residents, Stone Quarry Operation Gains Rare Acceptance in Community

Tue October 14, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

It’s rare that residents would accept the idea of a stone quarry operation opening for business in their “backyard.” But the residents of Savage, Md., worked closely with Laurel Sand & Gravel when it was looking at the acres needed to open a new quarry along Highway 1 between Laurel and Savage.

Laurel Sand & Gravel founder Kingdon Gould met with local residents in the neighboring communities. Out of those meetings came a Community Association that gave its support to issuing the quarry “special-use zoning” and started the ball rolling on the permitting process for what’s become Savage Stone LLC. The mining permit was issued in late 2003 and Savage Stone began construction on the 500-plus-acre site early the next year.

Savage Stone is one of several companies that fall under the Laurel Sand & Gravel Inc. umbrella that’s based in Laurel, Md., about halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Laurel Sand & Gravel also includes Fairfax Materials (primarily located in West Virginia), Allegany Aggregates in the Cumberland, Md., area, Laurel Asphalt and S.W. Barrick & Sons in the Woodsboro, Md., area. The companies each have their specialties — crushed stone with asphalt, ready-mix concrete and concrete block.

“The number of times homeowners have allowed a quarry near them is probably near zero,” said Owen Stewart, Savage Stone vice president of operations. “But they had some assurances that we would be good neighbors by keeping noise and dust to a minimum. In addition, we also give back to the community by helping the Community Association build a community center with several outside sports courts and a multipurpose athletic field. It’s worked out very well for both entities.”

Once Savage Stone had the green light, it began clearing nearly half the acres on the site, constructing a berm from the 900,000 cu. yd. of dirt it moved to make way for the primary and tertiary plants needed to crush the millions of tons of buried stone. Other work included building scales and a scale house, $1 million in paving and nearly 4 mi. of chain-link fence construction to enclose the site.

High-Quality Products from Experienced Employees

Construction lasted nearly two years, including the design, fabrication and construction of the crushing plants. Savage Stone fired up its primary plant in October 2005 and its tertiary plant in June 2006. Both are fully automated so they can be run by one person. From those plants come about 10 products, ranging from No. 10 dust to riprap.

“The rock we’re mining is Baltimore Gabbro which is unique to this area,” said Stewart, “It’s very hard, with a compressive strength exceeding 50,000 pounds per square inch. It makes an excellent riprap product and is useful in the final wearing surface on asphalt pavement. We’re selling primarily to contractors who use our crushed stone products for commercial buildings, subbase for parking lots and pipe bedding.”

Like other Laurel Sand & Gravel quarries, Savage Stone has its own testing lab where certified technicians ensure its products meet quality standards. The lab tests daily for gradation and compaction and performs additional testing, such as the sodium sulfate test.

“We’re in the process of bringing our materials up to state specifications, and that should happen relatively soon,” reported Stewart. “Once it does, we expect our tonnage to increase. Right now, we’re selling about 2 million tons of products a year that are either picked up by customers or hauled by one of our independent contractor truckers.”

Savage Stone expects its employee list may grow as well. Currently it employs nearly 30, including operators, plant personnel and maintenance staff. Key personnel include Phil Gosnell, site supervisor; Steve Prentice, who oversees the plants and plant maintenance; Bob Sharbaugh, sales manager; Louise Borell, who heads up the Quality Control Lab; and Stacey Hawke, administrative assistant. The business runs one production shift per day with four of its maintenance staff working at night.

“Savage Stone is a relatively new operation, but the level of experience here is quite high,” Stewart noted. “A very large percentage of our work force has worked for another Laurel Sand & Gravel operation before joining Savage Stone. They’re a big part of our success, and the reason we’re producing such high-quality products.”

Komatsu Machinery Helps Maintain Production

Mining the materials to make its products takes high-quality equipment, such as the Komatsu dozers, wheel loaders, rigid-frame and articulated trucks, and excavators Laurel Sand & Gravel has purchased for all its quarries, including Savage Stone. The company works closely with Midlantic Machinery Territory Manager Walter Ward to meet its needs.

“Our first purchase of Komatsu equipment was a WA900-3 wheel loader about four years ago that we’re still using,” said Terry Eichelberger, director of safety and quality control of Laurel Sand & Gravel. “Admittedly, we were loyal to another brand, and the reason we bought the WA900 was because the other dealer didn’t have machinery available when we needed it. In a way, that was a good thing because it brought us to Midlantic and Komatsu. We’ve had such good production with the WA900 that we continued to buy other Komatsu pieces. We’re definitely pleased with the performance and service.”

Since that initial purchase, Savage Stone has added PC400LC-7 excavators and a D155AX-6 Sigma dozer, as well as a D61 and D65 dozers.

“Those are our go-to machines for a variety of jobs, including stripping overburden and reclamation,” said Eichelberger. “The PC400s offer us versatility because we can use them for stripping, loading dirt and rock and breaking. We also put grapples on them for moving riprap. They match up very well with our Komatsu HM300 and HM400 articulated trucks and our HD605 rigid-frames. The combination has proven very efficient and productive. Our operators and drivers both tell us they like the smooth operation and comfort of our Komatsus.

“That includes the dozers. We especially appreciate the power and speed of the D155,” he added. “In addition to pushing dirt, we use it to rip some of the hard materials we run into during stripping. In each application, it maintains its power and allows us to keep production at maximum levels. We really like the Sigma blade because it allows us to push more material faster, lowering our cost per yard.”

Once the rock material is stripped and broken up, Savage Stone uses its massive WA900-3s with 17-yd. buckets to load trucks.

“It’s imperative that we move material as quickly as possible and with little downtime,” said Stewart. “The WA900 allows us to do that. We’re able to load trucks in three to four passes in short order. It’s stable, yet has good maneuverability so the operator can complete a cycle very quickly.”

Savage Stone is without a maintenance shop now, so it calls on Midlantic Machinery’s Baltimore branch for service as needed.

“When it came time to purchase Komatsu equipment, we didn’t hesitate because we knew its reputation for quality, and we knew we’d get good service from Midlantic,” said Stewart. “[Service Manager] Butch Harris and I go way back, and he and our territory manager, Walter Ward, have done an excellent job of keeping up with our needs for equipment and maintenance. Any time we need service work done, we call and they respond quickly.”

Getting to the Best Materials

In less than four years, Savage Stone has stripped, processed and hauled away a huge chunk of the stone that lies on the 500-acre site. The company is currently permitted for 240 of those acres.

“We’re permitted for 25 years of reserves, and there’s plenty of material here for us to make it that long and beyond,” said Stewart. “Right now, our goal is to drive the top two benches back as fast as possible, making material out of that stone to sell until we get down to the best rock that’s there. That will help us begin to make state-certified specs. It shouldn’t be too much longer before we’re there.”

This story was reprinted with permission from Midlantic Machinery News, 2008 No. 2.

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