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A Georgia company proves good fit in the aftermath of Irma

by Peter Hildebrandt

One Georgian company remains an important part of the solution to problems involved in massive cleanup efforts from Hurricane Irma in Florida. “The thing about damage from a major storm — such as a hurricane — is that you can be there 10 days or you can easily be there 100 days or more,” explains Les Boyett, utility division manager with Tri Scapes, Inc.

“Recently as I headed North back to Georgia on I-75, I passed a sizable number of grinding companies heading south on the other side of the interstate. What has placed Florida in a jam is what happened in Houston — most of the grinding equipment is tied up over there.”

Tri Scape’s first jobsite was in Sanford, in the vicinity of Orlando, FL. From that location they moved to nearby Clermont. The counties containing these communities will require months and months of grinding, according to Boyett. For that reason, they are definitely not the only outfit on the scene in Lake County, (Sanford is in nearby Seminole County).

There have been limited resources for those involved in Florida cleanups. Patience has been stretched to the limit. Boyett continued, “I don’t blame those taking equipment and resources to Texas and the Gulf.” Florida doesn’t have nearly the construction and demolition waste that exists in and around Houston. What Florida has is tons and tons of green waste that needs to be processed.

“Texas has the green waste but they also have many cases where a house flooded and then had to be demolished. Collier County in Florida for example, has over four million cubic yards of green waste to process. They did have some C&D waste there too, but have no trucks for picking up such material.”

Tri Scapes, Inc. are a general contracting company owned by Rebecca and Quinn Martin, with three divisions: construction, utilities, and maintenance.

“I’m on the utilities side,” explained Boyett. “I work with power companies, water companies, natural gas suppliers — those types of utilities. Lately, we were looking to add a grinder to our equipment inventory. This was primarily to service those utilities as well as handle any waste generated by our maintenance division.” The company could then turn around and process as well as colorize that product for their own use. Tri Scapes, among other things, handles rights of way — whether right-of-way construction or right-of-way maintenance.

According to Boyett, Rotochopper just happened to have equipment on a job Tri Scapes was involved in. “Other brands I’ve worked with did not have a design that could beat out this one, so going with this brand was a simple decision. That is from the point of view of both a mechanic and an operator. Pound for pound the Rotochopper gives more productivity — whatever scale you want to use, including horsepower, for instance. It can stand up to any competition.”

Tri Scapes and other out-of-state contractors working to help in Florida’s cleanup are organized and coordinated by CrowderGulf, a disaster recovery and debris management firm headquarted in Theodore, AL. Boyett’s operation working under S. St. George Enterprises out of NY, takes place on the debris reduction side. Debris is hauled to open fields belonging to Florida’s recreation department where grinders are set up to do the job.

Boyett feels that good maintenance has been a key factor in the success they’ve had so far. He is a firm believer in thorough equipment upkeep. “We probably go a little overboard. At the end of the day — an hour before shutdown — we make sure we’ve greased the machines, locked down tooling, fueled up all equipment, and checked air filters. All these tasks are done so the next day all we have to do is start up the equipment and go back to work.

One of the greatest challenges in the operations in Florida lies in the fact that incoming material to be processed is not always constant or consistent. And since they cannot control those variables, they can at least control what condition their equipment is in.

“We struggle with all those inconsistencies occurring with the wide variety of material being processed. When you are working with big logs, that’s involving a loading machine as opposed to working with brush jobs. And again, that is why I’m a firm believer in every day doing routine checks and daily maintenance because of all the variables involved with material being processed.”

Les Boyett has been in Florida since Oct. 6. He returned home to his family in Georgia just before the end of October for a brief time and will be heading right back to Florida. The storms have overwhelmed many people, including Boyett. “But by far Puerto Rico has it the worst” because they do not have anywhere near the availability of grinding equipment to handle cleanup. Not to mention infrastructure, electricity, water, “and any other basic services — we all tend to take for granted — are gone.”

Production is a must once they are on the jobsite, according to Boyett. “If not, the contractor will run you off. But if we keep doing what we are doing, we will have the ability to stay as long as we want — which could be anywhere from two more months to four months.

“Two months is about average. Florida has a lot of rules. If planned out right, this could be very profitable by visiting multiple sites on the way home. Most people are looking for the goldmine. We are not doing that, but are there to both serve and to do a good job. We are there to help and we’re underpaid but it doesn’t matter. All those hit by the hurricane are struggling to pay insurance deductibles.”

Another of Tri Scape’s challenges is getting people to realize they’re not a landscaping firm. Perhaps this job of cleaning up after Irma will help people to understand that.

“What we’re doing to trees we’re also doing to sidewalks, curbs, and parking lots. On the utility side we would also like to add the grinder. The equipment allows more current customers — our utility consumers — to lean on us a bit more. And we become more valuable to them by being the number to call when those needing our services say, ‘something needed to happen last night.’”

“This has been perfect timing because with the end of hurricane season on November first, we now head into our normally slower time of year — the months of December through February. We may be able to purchase more equipment by the beginning of the year — just as even more projects are coming up. With all that has happened during 2017’s hurricane season, Tri Scapes has their work cut out for them.”


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