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Constructive Comments

Constructive Comments By Dick Snow April 11, 2003 Every vote counts

Dick Snow

Burt Babcock, Babcock Mechanical, is a believer. Alderman Burt Babcock, Port Washington, ran for mayor of that city. He tallied 995 votes to opponent Scott Huebner’s 999 votes on Election Day. Naturally, the highly competitive mechanical contractor called for a recount. He gained one vote and Huebner lost one, but the final outcome remained the same, unfortunately. Our condolences and congratulations for participating in the process, not many contractors do. Fuchs won’t go away Matt Fuchs retired last year as dean of the Architectural Engineering Department, Milwaukee School of Engineering. However, his destination has not been the rocking chair. That would not be true to his activism nature. Instead, travel to the Mayan Riviera for a son’s wedding aside, Fuchs is currently eyes and ears for MSOE as ground is broken at 5 p.m. for the Kern Center, its $31 million recreation and health building that will occupy almost an entire block north of East Juneau Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. So Fuchs’ fans will get to see him in action at least until the fall of next year when the Kern Center opens. We can’t predict what his participation portends, but we are assured the project’s construction manager, Hunzinger Construction, will be aware of and welcome him as an integral part of the construction family. As a fellow retiree, we feel strongly no one should be lulled into inaction with the length and breadth of knowledge and experience that a person like Fuchs can bring to the industry. Better late than never The news out of the annual convention of the Associated General Contractors of America that it has formed a partnership with the federal Environmental Protection Agency is most welcome and better late than never. Too often in the past, the AGC has taken an ill-advised adversarial position to attempts to legislatively reform the construction industry. We vividly recall the advent of the Occupational Safety and Health Act more than 30 years ago. While the industry generally rebelled, the Milwaukee Construction Industry Safety Council was formed to deal with local safety and health concerns. Result? An informal, working relationship was established with the local OSHA office. OSHA had fish to fry in other parts of the country and, more or less, left Milwaukee alone. Ditto with the onset of affirmative action programs. Milwaukee got out ahead of the game with pro-activity, and the results were much the same. Locals also got out in front of a perceived alcohol- and drug-abuse problem by opting for an excellent treatment program as well as appropriate language in labor agreements. The state construction industry has had previous contact with the EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources vis a vis the construction site erosion-control issue. It lobbied hard and did receive and agreed to a statewide standard for handling potential erosion on job sites. In our opinion, the national AGC’s partnership and exchange of viewpoints and information with the EPA, while a long time coming, is, nevertheless, a positive move that will reap dividends down the road for the construction industry. Construction optimism ain’t dead yet Despite the current economic climate, hopes for new construction projects abound:

  • Regardless of the hot debate surrounding the project, some form of repair or revision of the Marquette Interchange and some form of freeway expansion will occur.

  • It appears a certainty that at least one, possibly three, coal-fueled power plants are in order for Oak Creek.

  • A $5.8 million breakwater rehabilitation project, including a bike path, on/adjacent to Lake Michigan in Bay View is being seriously discussed.

  • Then there’s a $120 million expansion of the Potawatomi Casino upcoming as the tribe disclosed it has completed the purchase of two parcels of land on Canal Street in the Menomonee Valley, Milwaukee.

  • While 79 percent of school bond referendums (19) were defeated in the recent elections — not exactly a surprise — 21 percent (5) were successful and will proceed.

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    Then there are two major projects (no bid dates yet) in the offing. One is a five-year $50 million revamp of the Lake Lawn Resort at Delavan and a 32-story, $60 million new condominium development, University Club Tower, in downtown Milwaukee.

There is still a modicum of optimism that now is the time to build. That’s how it should be. The industry is softening, but it’s far from moribund. On the bidding spike Only $203, or 0.5 percent, separated Ryba Marine, Cheboygan, Mich., from Andrie, Muskegon, Mich,, to dredge the Brown County Port — $36,586 to $36,789, respectively. But you can’t find a Squeeze of the Week much closer than the $30 between the $68,440 bid of Kotze Construction against the $68,770 bid of Ray Stadler Construction, Wauwatosa — a difference of 0.04 percent –to renovate the pool equipment room at Waukesha North High School. Or can you? Actually, last week we found identical $9,800 bids by Aspen Property Care, Sturtevant, and Sundance Lawn Care, Sturtevant, to mow the lawn at the Ridgwood Care Center in Racine this season. Finally, there’s a project in Oshkosh to build an addition to an existing Winnebago County garage that must be tasty. Twenty-one general contractors have lined up to submit bids on April 14. Stay tuned.Dick Snow, the ultimate insider, has been a leading figure in Wisconsin’s construction community for decades. We, and Mr. Snow, invite your response. Call us at 800-508-3800 ext. 125, or e-mail.

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