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A day on the road with Tom Holt

July 28, 2008

Park Construction superintendent helps keeps Delano road construction progressing

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Before the sun rises, Tom Holt is out of bed and heading to Delano from his hometown of Lindstrom.

As the superintendent for Park Construction, it is Holt’s responsibility to oversee daily road construction operations.

Park Construction is the general contractor for the current US Trunk Highway 12 construction in Delano. The company has hired sub-contractors to do some of the work such as paving, bridge construction, and curb, gutters, or cement work.

“The main core of the old road was concrete poured way back a long time ago, and then there’s the black top shoulders,” Holt said. “We went through and took out the concrete pavement first.”

Once the concrete was removed, a machine called a reclaimer was used to turn it into gravel. This is a means of recycling, because the reclaimed gravel is then put back on top of the road.

“When we build a road,” explained Holt, “we put in four feet of sand, 10 inches of gravel used for strength, and then seven inches of black top.”

The sand comes from a sand pit north of town owned by Bob Perry of Minnesota Business Enterprises Inc. (MBE Inc.) On any given day, Holt may have up to 20 trucks hailing in and out of town.

It can be difficult to stop the circling trucks before rain or inclement weather approaches, and this can sometimes take an hour or more. Holt claims snow, however, is their worst enemy, and this year they encountered three snow days.

Weather is not the only issue that affects the road construction process – they also have had to deal with a lot of wet or unstable soils.

“Over just west of the (Crow) River, we are also putting down a layer of fabric,” said Holt. “This is used for separation to keep the clay from clumping up into the sand. They don’t do that on all jobs, but they are on this one because there’s so many unsuitable and unstable soils.”

Each morning, Holt spends time trying to get all of the truck drivers coordinated, loading at the right place, showing them where to dump, and get them going on their circle for the day.

Once the trucks are started, he can then drive around in his red Park Construction truck and see how things are progressing throughout the project.

With him, in his understandably dusty vehicle, are many means of communication including a cell phone and a two-way radio. Add about 25 employees to a list of sub- contractors and rented trucks, and it equals a very busy and hectic day.

It would be impossible to count how many times Holt’s radio erupts with, “Tom you got a copy?” or how many times he is in and out of his truck during the day.

Working around constant interruptions and noise while taking on multiple tasks and challenges are things Holt takes in stride. Waking up at 4 a.m., making the long commute to Delano, working a long hot day, and sometimes not arriving home until 8 p.m. – it’s all worth it to Holt.

“Well, it’s all worthwhile because in the winter, I cheat . . . I go to Florida,” admitted Holt. “When things are hectic, that’s what I put my thoughts on. Just a couple more months; I’m half way to Florida.”

Holt and his wife, Nora, have a condo in a small town, on a peninsula called Cape Coral. His only son worked for Holt a couple summers, decided construction wasn’t his cup of tea, and became a teacher.

Beginning as a laborer more than 30 years ago, moving to an operator, and then on to a supervisor, Holt has been doing project supervision since 1985.

As for plans when he retires, Holt won’t move to Florida permanently, but will stay longer.

“I’m an avid deer hunter, so I’d go as soon as that is over, and probably not come back until May or so,” he said.

Sometimes plans for a construction job are sent to Holt during the winter months. A book of plans for the Highway 12 construction in Delano was in his hands as he sat in the Florida sun back in February.

Once the plans are given to him, he coordinates a staging system, coordinates where to work based on other utilities or where gas main work is, and gets the variety of crews scheduled. Once this is accomplished, weather permitting, the work begins, and Holt oversees it all.

Holt keeps a close eye on all areas of the project, but isn’t too busy for joking around from time to time. Referring to one Park employee as “in charge of the dream team,” or asking another when they will bring more Rhubarb crisp show Holt’s lighter side.

“We are about 70 percent done with our part of the project now,” he said. “And, I’m about 25 percent closer to Florida.”

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