Locals digging school construction jobs
July 15, 2009
Summer construction is in full swing at South Tahoe High School for the Measure G construction projects, and about $6 million worth of work is going to resident contractors.
About 20 local contractors are on the job site right now.
“The locals are just ramping up,” said Joe Stewart of SMC Contracting Inc.
Stewart is heading the site work for the Career Technical Education building and the portable replacement building – the first construction projects from the $64.5 million school bond approved by voters in November.
About $30 million worth of bonds was sold for these first two projects. District officials are estimating the final cost of the projects will be $24 million.
About $21 million in construction contracts has been awarded; of that, $6 million went to local contractors, according to Steve Morales, facilities director for Lake Tahoe Unified School District.
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That leaves about $3 million in contracts yet to be awarded, Morales said.
Thomas Haen of Thomas Haen Co. is currently doing earth work and utilities for the portable replacement building.
“We would be slow if we didn’t have this job,” Haen said.
July is usually a busy month for dirt work, and for companies to have little or no work is unusual, Haen said.
“This is definitely a life-saver,” said Jim Ferguson, who owns Ferguson Excavating. “It’s one of the best things I’ve got going on this year.”
Ferguson employees 12 people and rotates them through the job site so everyone can have some work this summer.
The pay is also great for employees because public works projects pay about 30 percent more than private jobs, Haen said.
Haen attributed the number of locals working on the job to efforts made by SMC Inc. and the district. In February, Stewart and Morales held a workshop at the high school to answer questions from resident subcontractors who had never bid public works jobs before.
“It’s a very intimidating process to do public works for the first time,” Haen said.
Morales and Stewart said more subcontractor bids are still available, so residents still have an opportunity to work on these two sites.
Haen has participated in other school construction projects. Morales estimated Haen has worked on about $12 million worth of jobs over the years.
Robert Haen, Thomas Haen’s son, is also working on the job. Robert Haen graduated from STHS in 1996, and said the campus improvements will benefit the community. For example, the CTE building will house construction programs, and as a result, his dad’s company will be able to hire high school graduates who take those courses.
September is going to be the prime time for local workers because that’s when the interior and exterior parts of the building come into play, Stewart said.
Kirk David of KD Builders said his company will be siding the CTE building in the fall with John Dalton Construction. He doesn’t have a lot of work at the moment because not many custom homes are being built right now.
David graduated from STHS in 1985 and has children enrolled in the district.
Many residents are also working for out-of-town contractors, Stewart said. For example, Urata & Sons Cement Inc. is based out of the Sacramento area. The company started in South Lake Tahoe in 1974, and employs two residents out of its five-man crew, he added.
The crews are also re-using materials at the site. The old asphalt and concrete will be recycled for new roadways being built, Stewart said. Old limbs from the trees will also be chopped up for mulch, too.
Trees were cleared at the entrance of the high school for the new building, pedestrian access, roads and improved utilities, Morales said.
Stewart said they are working with South Tahoe Refuse to make sure as many materials as possible are recycled.
“A lot of the materials don’t even leave the site, which reduces the environmental impact,” Morales said.
The old portables are being used as offices for the construction crews, Morales said.