Local businesses seeing increased activity related to RRHP construction
The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project (RRHP) undeniably is having an impact on Pella, Iowa, and the surrounding area. Construction of the massive project has brought with it temporary closures of some facilities, but it also has brought the additions of some new recreational and picnic areas.
In addition to an influx of workers at RRHP, it also has been good for some area businesses. Take Skyline Ready Mix. Skyline’s Pella operation is providing the concrete for the project. That means a lot of concrete. As of mid-May, the company had poured more than 19,000 yards including some test pours. “We have about 100,000 yards to go,” said Skyline’s Operations Manager Arlan “Ott” Van Dusseldorp.
“We did about 100 yards of test pours to get dialed in on the right workable mix. One pour takes eight to 12 hours. That’s 680-780 yards at 10 yards on a truck and we have three trucks pouring at once,” Van Dusseldorp said.
Skyline is owned by Bruening Rock Products, Inc., and when it took on the job, Arvin Lanser, who had more than 20 years of experience working in the concrete industry, was serving as operations manager. Lanser died suddenly March 27 and Van Dusseldorp was thrown into the job. “Arvin was hesitant about even bidding because of the challenges of the concrete temperature specs,” Van Dusseldorp said. He credits Lanser for leading him in the right direction. “There are some decisions I make during a job that I can’t believe I’m even making. But it was because Arvin was training me to do this job even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time.”
Van Dusseldorp also credits Ames Construction – the general contractor for RRHP – with seeing to it that things go as smoothly as possible. “Ames has been really fantastic. They are building an ice plant to cool the concrete down in the summer,” he said. “Between our operation and the ice plant, we’ll be the second largest electricity consumer in Pella. We also had a heater installed to keep concrete warm enough in the winter.”
Bruening also has allowed Skyline to get the personnel and equipment it needs. “We never had a truck mechanic before, but we have one now and we’re having fewer breakdowns.”
Skyline also has rented up to six trucks from other companies at times. The company has 14 trucks of its own bringing the total available to 20 when needed. “I want to personally thank all of the employees of Skyline for doing such a great job,” Van Dusseldorp said.
Challenges in the Recipe
Ames has specific codes or recipes for different mixes of concrete for the project. Each code has different ratios of cement, rock, and water. Skyline is currently working with a “tremie” concrete mix, which is designed to be used under water and to tie various elements together. Tremie mix must stay fluid and workable for eight hours and be of the right consistency to bind together. It has a set time of 20 to 40 hours. Skyline’s tremie mix is currently setting up in 26 hours. To control the set time, Skyline used hot water for the winter pours and is using cold water now that the weather has gotten warmer.
At the end of August, when Skyline begins to pour the foundations for the powerhouse and intake structure, the recipe will change to a lightweight concrete mix made with man-made rock. This mix has to stay wet during the hot weather and can’t be allowed to dry too quickly.
Van Dusseldorp said that Skyline is a very customer-oriented business and its customer relationships are very important. Because of its commitment to RRPH, Skyline has been unable to bid on some local projects. The company tries to maintain a ratio of three trucks dedicated to RRHP and one truck for other local projects. “We hope our local contractors will be understanding and that they will come back when this project is finished,” Van Dusseldorp said.
Business for auto dealer
Craig Ford has been in the car business for 15 years and in Pella for about seven years. Ford owns Pella Motors, a local company that has seen benefits from the development of RRHP.
Prior to coming to Pella and purchasing the dealership, Ford worked in the automobile business in Ankeny, Iowa. Before that he was in college and then served in the U.S. Army.
Pella Motors sells Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, GMC, Jeep, and Ram vehicles, but, despite the owner’s name, it doesn’t sell Fords.
As it was beginning work on RRHP, Ames needed about 15 work trucks and issued its specifications and called for bids. Pella Motors won the bid. Ford said that one challenge was to try to get the right tool boxes for each truck. Because of delays caused by supplier problems with the order, Pella Motors had to rush to install the tool boxes in a three-hour period to meet Ames’ timeframe.
Pella Motors also provides maintenance services for all of Ames’ trucks and is on hand to help if any breakdowns should occur. “We didn’t really have to gear up to prepare for this project – we sell a lot of vehicles,” Ford said. “I anticipate that Ames will need additional trucks in the future and I hope that we get the chance to provide them.”
Ford has developed a good relationship with many of the Ames employees and a personal relationship with some. They share an interest in the Knoxville races and in fast cars.
One Ames employee personally purchased a Dodge Challenger Hellcat 707 HP muscle car from Pella Motors. That model has a very limited production and is hard to come by, but Ford was able to get one and he says he enjoyed working on the deal.
“Ames Construction and its employees have been great ambassadors for the community of Pella. They bought houses, bought vehicles, and bought materials locally whenever they could. They are truly trying to be part of the community,” Ford said.