ECA Newsletter 9/25/17
The Long Run!
As I talk to folks around our industry, I keep hearing the same thing-“we cannot find any more workers or equipment to take on additional work”.
Not that the above scenario is a bad one-if everyone is busy and hitting their budgets on projects, the collective sigh we all can let go is “IT’S ABOUT TIME”!!
But we have to consider the long run (right after we put out all the brush fires that deal with the present). In order to sustain this work load, we are going to have to get more young people to choose our industry as a career. How can you be expected to attract young people to the industry when you are already so busy you cannot find an extra 5 minutes in a day? That’s why you belong to the ECA. That’s what we do!
The first step towards this goal is to support the efforts of The Construction Corps.
At this year’s annual ECA Auction, “The Days of Wine and Dozers”, the ECA will hopefully see lots of support and lots of drunken, belligerent, and carefree bidding on the fabulous items we have to offer this year. But at some point, the evening should get slightly serious, as we should hear from one of the students that just graduated from the Construction Corps and what that program meant to him. Whether you can attend or not, we hope you can support the good things we are doing at the ECA by putting in a bid on an item. You do not have to be there. You can opt for a “Buy It Now” option and purchase a dinner, or a trip, or something else that you can put to good use by inviting your loyal suppliers or employees to enjoy with you.
So we can keep doing the good work we are doing, and so we can continue to support the future workers of our industry through the Construction Corps, please contact Mary and ask about her “Buy It Now” items and buy an auction items to support us! For those that can attend on Saturday, we are happy to see you and hope you have a great time at the event.
That’s All Folks!
Miracle League Is Taking Shape-
Thanks to great support from Peterson CAT, BoDean, Soiland Company, Ghilotti Construction, Team Ghilotti, Sonoma Reinforcing, Pace Industries, Shamrock/Vulcan, V Dolan Trucking, PG & E, and many others, the playground portion of the Miracle League broke ground on September 5 and Team Ghilotti and Ghilotti Construction finished up the surface work in time for the playground equipment to be installed this next weekend.
Many thanks to all who have helped out. The kids will forever be enriched by your generosity!
- Lucchesi Park is the site of the Project in Petaluma
- A generous donor and many significant donors have gotten the fundraising total to over $600,000 to date (the rough estimate of the overall project is around $1.5 million to $2 million).
- The City of Petaluma has waived all encroachment fees and has been working closely with the Engineers and our Project Champion Willie Ghilotti to get us to the point where we are ready to break ground on the first phase of work in September, 2017.
- Jeff Bordessa and Stuber Stroeh have gotten us to the point where Ghilotti Construction has been able to do a takeoff of the first phase of work.
- The ECA is coordinating the “ask” to get the first portion of work completed. The “street value” of the first phase of work is around $178,000.
- Because of grant funding, we are under a time constraint to get the playground grading work done in time for the playground equipment company to coordinate the installation of the playground equipment by September 30, 2017.
ECA Newsletter 8/9/17
Look Ma, No Hands!
We have all read with amusement, trepidation, and wonderment about the move some companies are making in the area of driverless vehicles. We read about UBER testing extensively, we read about Google’s vision of becoming a huge fleet owner of electric vehicles that will not need drivers to operate them, and we have read about this futuristic concept impacting our driver habits and car ownership needs.
Think about the impact the movement towards driverless cars might have on our society:
- It is estimated that self-driving autonomous vehicles, when fully adopted, will reduce traffic congestion by 80%
- and increase green space in cities by 30%, as road lanes and parking spaces are taken out of service,
- and take away 90% of the production of GMC and Ford vehicles as the shift will be towards not owning your own cars, but rather calling for a ride and having a driverless electric vehicle show up at your location to haul you to where you want to go, and
- and the impact on gas and oil companies is already being considered and planned for as the giants in oil and gas are heavily investing in alternative energy platforms as well as the driverless vehicle firms that are on the cutting edge.
Will driverless vehicles kill the oil and gas sector? Some big companies are betting big money on the driverless vehicle movement. Just this spring, Giant ChipMaker Intel, bought a firm that has 663 employees working on driverless technology for $15.3 billion.
Many analysts thought Intel was “nuts” for paying that much for a heretofore unproven company that is not making money yet, but I think Intel was pretty damn smart for getting in on the ground floor of an industry that is coming at us hard and fast-the electric vehicle industry. We just read about Tesla being worth more than either Ford of GMC despite having a small fraction of their market share.
Here are some of the discussion points being talked about: if driverless vehicles continue developing and are able to deal with the “fear factor” of trusting your safety to a robot, some projections have car ownership phased out by 2030. Only those that have to haul their tools with lumber racks will still be buying vehicles and driving them. Everyone else will be riding in a car that will be able to travel on the highway at much faster speeds than a “normal” car and do so with another driverless vehicle inches off their front bumper as well as their rear bumper. The big “shift” for our ECA industry might be from “expanding” our roadway capacity, to maintaining our roads in a much smoother surfacing state.
Whichever way the driverless vehicle goes, our industry looks very solid for many decades to come. The other place to consider putting your investment money to good use? Buy parking lots in big cities as they will not be needed in another 20 years. If they are not needed in 20 years, they will be very valuable for building much needed infill housing on. After all, you can jam a lot of housing into a parking lot if you do not need a garage!
That’s All Folks!
Why Don’t We Trust Government?
SB-1 passed which increases California State spending for road and bridge projects, yet, here comes CALTRANS hiring 1100 new workers before any new projects go to bid. No wonder we do not trust Government.
ECA Newsletter 6-26-17
As many of us are aware, the project that Bay Cities tackled in Healdsburg has some of the worst soils conditions of any area in Sonoma County. Add to that the wettest winter in the history of Sonoma County and mix in tight quarters and lots of traffic control constraints, and you have a recipe for a project that is going to be finished later than expected.
In a recent Healdsburg Tribune article, the City spokesperson is seemingly trying to present, judge, and sentence the Contractor all at once. Click here for the article-
At $1,000/day Liquidated Damages, being a year past the anticipated finish date indicates there will be great difficulty in amicably working out who owes what to whom. Most of us Contractors have had one or more jobs like this that just seem to suck the life right out of your crews, your relationship with your bonding company, and with your shareholders too. Although Bay Cities is not an ECA member, I don’t wish a conflict like this seems likely to be on anybody!
I have neither reviewed the Healdsburg Contract Docs, nor held extensive interviews with anybody closely associated with the project, but I have had several of these types of project when I was a contractor. Sometimes the conflict or dispute is unavoidable, sometimes it is avoidable. I always sought to avoid the dispute if possible. But in reading this article on Bay Cities and Healdsburg, I thought it might be best to use my soapbox for my opinionated “rant”.
I always got the absolutely best outcome in any disputed delay or performance claims by doing the following:
- Being brutally honest about the causation of the time delay. We had a schedule to begin with, and trust me on this one, you are not going to get the City or Municipality to just hand you delay days if the delay was caused by a bad schedule to begin with, or a bad plan, or delays caused by anticipating you could do things in the wet months that are unrealistic. You have to ascertain if you are being delayed by your own failure, or if the owner has somehow not performed their duty and that has put your work into the rainy season or into an out and out delay. If it is your fault-FIX IT. Let the Owner know your plan to fix it by submitting your “crashed” schedule and then do not wait for the Owner to approve the schedule. It is ultimately going to be you spending the money, so “own it”.
- If you find the owner has caused the delay, you need to document and prepare the extra work backup to withstand court scrutiny. Too many times we tried to be the “nice guys” and give the owner a break by sharing in the costs and not spending the dollars to properly prepare a Claim. You are far better off “building your binder” and making sure you are including all that you are entitled to. If the owner directs you to do something that is not in the Contract, you say “yes sir, I will get that done for you” but you also make sure the owner knows, in writing, that you consider his/her request to be extra work and you may be entitled to additional compensation. “Stack” them up and you can always “horsetrade” at the end of the project. It doesn’t have to be adversarial. You are just doing your job and accommodating the owner’s requests.
- Never, ever, stop work. Stopping for a few hours is ok, but never demobilize and suspend the work. That is really bad for your pocketbook!
- If the job had subcontractors and suppliers involved, you need to make sure you wrote good subcontract agreements and purchase orders and tied them to reasonable performance timelines that they themselves have agreed to at bid time. If they were supposed to get submittals in to you within 4 weeks, and they take longer, put your foot down. You never know if the Owner is going to change their mind about that scope of work and you want to make sure the Sub or Supplier doesn’t use up all the “float” by you not demanding that the Project owns the float.
- Finally, do not hide the extra costs. Give them to the Owner as soon as you can. Be transparent. Be honest. Get what you deserve. And remember-if the delay was your fault, fix it. Do not be the “sword rattler”.
That’s All Folks!
ECA Newsletter 6-14-17
IT’S ALWAYS SUMPIN?
We keep reading about housing prices going up, Cities considering some sort of rent control to put some cost restrictions on rental prices, and now we are starting to hear that new home buyers should pay an “inclusionary housing fee” to fund “affordable (make that subsidized) housing” for the homeless and less affluent. At a time when we should be looking to cut housing costs and stimulate and incentivize developers to develop and buyers to buy, this seems to run contrary to what is needed. Let me be clear-this Soapbox “rant” is about the fact that if housing does not get built, it is going to affect my friends at the ECA. There will be less work for contractors to sitework subdivisions, and there will be less housing for your workers. It is my job, I believe, to point out things that might both positively affect your businesses, and/or negatively affect your businesses.
I have written before about what has caused the housing shortage that has led to an increase in price (supply and demand-when supply is low, demand is high, what do we think happens to the price?). We keep hearing that Sonoma County workers cannot afford to live here so they are opting to take jobs elsewhere. In the private sector, many firms cannot fill open positions without paying a big premium to the skilled workeer due to the high cost of living. What could possibly alleviate this “perfect storm” that we find ourselves in?
Build more housing. Duh.
What are our local agencies doing to spur housing starts? One local City recently hired a consultant to explain to the electeds that they could, by virtue of a State allowance, include “inclusionary” housing fees up to $81,000 (plus) for a typical 1800 sf new home purchase. I cannot tell you if the City will adopt that new fee. But surely you all reading this can recognize that there is a distinct possibility that some local electeds would like the concept of, in their minds, putting a fee on the “greedy” developer to make it seem like they are trying to solve the problem of a lack of affordable housing in our area. This has been a “tried and true” philosophy over the years to add all kinds of fees to new housing. The fallacy of this thinking is that the developer is not going to “eat” that extra cost. He is going to build it into the price of the home he is contemplating building and price it accordingly. Whammo! You are starting to see why this is a “bassackwards” approach to building more affordable housing aren’t you?
If the City issued zero permits for single detached housing starts in 2016, and they then add an inclusionary housing fee to the cost of the developer to absorb into the housing price, how many housing starts would they “encourage”? I am guessing they would go from zero to a “hell no zero” real quick!
How do you potential new home buyers feel about this? A typical home buyer will finance their mortgage over 30 years. The inclusionary housing fee would be made a part of that home price by the developer. Typically, financing a cost over 30 years is going to ultimately cost the home buyer three (3) times what the price was at the time of purchase. So if the local City that decided to impose the maximum allowable State inclusionary fee on housing starts of $81,000 for that “typical 1800 sf new home, well that would cost that buyer $243,000. As Roseanne Rosannadanna from SNL would say “It’s Always Sumpin”.
- I can hear you now. What can I do about this? Here is what you can do. Continue to support your little ole ECA so we can continue to let you know about these things. If you really want to do something else, talk or write to your local elected officials and tell them that trying to stimulate housing starts by putting fees on new housing in order to generate some sort of subsidized housing will not work. Subsidizing housing should be a community based problem to be solved. Do not try to put the fee on a new home buyer alone in order to solve the inequities of high priced housing. The builder will simply pass the fees on to the buyer, and then the only person paying for the affordable/subsidized housing is the new buyer.
That’s All Folks!
Follow Up On Project Labor Agreements:
On Tuesday afternoon, I attended the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees meeting where they were being asked to vote on directing their staff to begin negotiations for a Project Labor Agreement on a specific building as part of the $410 million worth of Measure H funded taxpayer monies. The vote passed 4-3 after lots of drama. The Press Democrat has the story of how it unfolded right here–
Followup On Sonoma County Budget Hearings For Road Funding
This is what you pay me for! After several months of discussions and emails and phone calls and collaboration with our Board of Supes in Sonoma County, the County Transportation and Public Works proposed their $20 million budget proposal for 2018-2019 and it passed unanimously. Our five Supervisors, have gone from hearing a report from Phil Demery some 7 years ago that stated “we will have to let many of our County roads just deteriorate back to gravel due to a lack of funding”, to a declaration that in 5-10 years we might “have the best roads of any County in the State”. I am proud to say that all five Supervisors are firmly on board for continuing to make fixing our roads a main priority. If you have the time, an email would go a long way towards cementing the relationship between these Supes and our Association and members. I would urge you to say something like this:
“Dear ________: I want to thank you for keeping your “eye on the ball” of fixing our County roads for the last few years. I recognize your commitment by the fact that Sonoma County spends more of its General Fund on fixing roads than ANY other County in the State! Keep up the good work! We appreciate your efforts and the results as we all can see nice newly surfaced roads more and more in the County. It is also obvious, that those newly paved roads held up very well in the last huge winter that we just experienced.
Sonoma County is comprised of 5 supervisorial districts.
District Supervisor: Susan Gorin—Susan.Gorin@sonoma-county.org
District Supervisor: David Rabbitt—David.Rabbitt@sonoma-county.org
District Supervisor: Shirlee Zane—Shirlee.Zane@sonoma-county.org
District Supervisor: James Gore—James.Gore@sonoma-county.org
District Supervisor: Lynda Hopkins—Lynda.Hopkins@sonoma-county.org
Please email the Supes and thank them for fixing our roads!
Is there any company out there that has plenty of workers right now and a future supply of workers to support their growing business?
I doubt it.
For years, we have been lamenting the aging workforce and the lack of young people opting for a career in the General Engineering Contracting Industry. We kind of got serious about it then the recession of 2008 hit and most firms were struggling to find work, rather than workers. Times have changed!
With the adoption of SB-1, our roads industry will see a steady infusion of dollars that will make a career in road building very stable in our area. Career! Not just for a few years, but an entire CAREER! We have a golden opportunity to attract young people right now.
So, what to do? Well, luckily, the Career Technical Education (CTE) for Sonoma County has teamed up with the North Coast Builders Exchange and local high schools, to institute the “Construction Corps”. High School age young people are currently finishing the first ever Construction Corps Class and are about to graduate! Eleven young people have gone through 18 sections of classroom and hands on field training to get to this week. Monday, June 12 started the 1st of 10 days of “Boot Camp” where the students go out in the field and work on a Habitat for Humanity project tearing down a deck and cover and rebuilding the same for an elderly couple in Santa Rosa. Many thanks to Ghilotti Construction, Mike Brown Electric, and Team Ghilotti for providing skilled craftspeople to lead these young people during this period.
A special thank you to Doug Hamilton and the crew over at OakGrove Construction for taking the lead in guiding this program from its inception, to the cusp of its first graduating class. I know Gail Cochran was instrumental in keeping this program going in its early stages as well with the folks over at RCX. I think it is time the ECA tacked on to their program an optional 40 hour training that we call the “Marv Soiland Academy” that would provide training and education to those Construction Corps graduates who want to pursue our industry. Then companies also need to step up and hire these graduates!
The ECA has helped this year. But we want to expand this program. And for that, it takes an investment from you good members. More to come. If you are interested in investing in your future workers in this manner, consider sending in a separate donation to the ECA that clearly states it is for the “Marv Soiland Academy” and let’s get the future workers coming our way!
ECA Newsletter 4-14-17
Now That the State Passed SB-1, What’s Next?
The ECA’s Public Officials Night was April 6, the same day that SB-1 passed in both the State Assembly and the State Senate Chambers with close votes. I urge you to read the Bill as amended by clicking here-
In the Assembly, the voting was so close that if there had been 1 less vote in favor, the bill would have been defeated. In the Senate, the margin was just as close. To see how everyone in both the Assembly and the Senate voted, click here–
Behind the scenes, there were many organizations and individuals talking to the “swing voters” needed to pass the bill. Supervisor David Rabbitt was one of those contacting Levine and Woods to make sure they voted in favor of the bill. Supervisor Rabbitt showed me his cell phone at Public Officials night and let me read a few of the messages he was sending and receiving from Marc Levine. Wednesday, I got a chance to speak with Senator Mike McGuire, who was a HUGE advocate for SB-1 and was right in the middle of the “negotiations” to secure the “Aye” votes needed to pass the bill. Senator McGuire has been a real champion for this area in securing funding for the 18 mile Highway 101 reconstruct from Windsor to Geyserville, and his great energy in pushing through SB-1.
Levine was the key vote in the Assembly, and he has said that he was holding out for an additional $200 million to fund the Novato Narrows but when that did not occur, he voted “Aye” anyway in large part due to the tremendous pressure put on him by many groups.
So now that the Transportation Bill has passed, what is next? To see how the dollars will be allocated in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Lake and all the other Counties and Cities in those Counties, click here
The other part of what needs to be done, and I will be working diligently on this-is to insure the Counties do not cut their General Fund spending that they have as a “baseline” because they are getting some extra dollars from the State tax increase as a result of SB-1. Although I have heard nothing from our Supervisors hinting at them cutting or reallocating County funds away from roads, those discussions will certainly continue.
Does SB-1 solve all our problems? Not even close. We have deferred maintenance for so long, the repairs needed far exceed even the $52 billion that SB-1 is estimated to bring in over 10 years. The ECA will continue to push for an extension of Measure M here in Sonoma County, in order to bolster the road repairs needed in the nine Sonoma County cities as well as in unincorporated Sonoma County.
We have the pleasure of having Suzanne Smith, Executive Director of Sonoma County Transportation Authority, attending our Board of Director’s meeting on Tuesday, April 18 to tell us what exactly SB-1 will do, and what we still need to do to fund local road repairs. If any members would like to attend this rather special Board Meeting, please contact Mary at 546-5500 to see if we can accommodate your request. If you are interested, you must contact Mary no later than noon on Monday. Then you too can find out “WHAT’s NEXT?”.
That’s All Folks!
ECA Newsletter 4-7-17
BEST DAY EVER?
I will say after 7 years as a paid guy here at the ECA, plus another 6 years as a Director, Board Member, and Officer, this day, Friday, April 7, 2017, is the BEST DAY I have ever experienced associated with the ECA!!
Why? First-last night was our 25th Annual Public Officials Night where we honored Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works and Team Ghilotti’s project on Liberty Road in Petaluma. Click here for the video. Second-Our State Legislators passed (in both the Senate and the Assembly) a comprehensive $52 billion Transportation Bill in California to fix our roads and bridges and highways!
I have been very vocal about putting pressure on our Legislators-particularly Marc Levine, District 10 Assemblyman about voting for SB-1. Both Levine and Woods voted in favor of SB-1 last night in a marathon session in Sacramento. http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6861488-181/california-lawmakers-approve-52-billion?artslide=0
Now we need to reach out and thank our Elected officials for passing the largest road repair plan in well over a generation. Our neglected roads and bridges will not only put many construction workers to work, but the Public will benefit tremendously by the repairs that will be forthcoming.
Let’s also give credit to the “Fix Our Roads” organization (of which the ECA is a member) for their tireless advocacy to get help for our roads-click here for their announcement—http://fixcaroads.com/
Locally-at least $7.8 million annually for Marin County and its Cities and at least $19 million for Sonoma County and its Cities-click here for City and County breakdown-
Thanks to all of you who have supported any of the organizations that have worked hard for this bill to pass. I include Fix Our Roads, United Contractors, SOS Roads, NorthBay Leadership Council, AGC, ECA, Sonoma County Alliance, and many other groups. Although the ECA is relatively small in this arena, we had Marc Levine’s Aide at our Public Officials Night event last night and he got an earful about supporting SB-1! Coincidence that Levine changed his mind and voted for SB-1? I do not think so.
We also need to treasure and be appreciative of our three local Public Officials that did a great job in helping to pass SB-1:
District 2 Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt-send him a thank you email please! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SCTA Executive Director Suzanne Smith-tell her “Great Job” please! (email@example.com)
And California State Senator Mike McGuire-helped pass the SB-1 Bill and he deserves lots of credit for such a great achievement-let him know! (
Look-this is what we know-Advocacy works. This is a great day. Thanks for supporting the ECA! Smoother roads are on our horizon!
That’s All Folks!
1. Groundwater Sustainability Act and the group that will be deciding what water wells to regulate and how much to charge for those businesses, farms, and individuals who have wells.
2. Consideration of Measure M extension going to the voters in November of 2018. Please read the recent agenda item (starting on page 201 of the attached report) about potential of $1.7 Billion worth of road improvement dollars being considered. The report also has a table of which Cities would get how many dollars by clicking here– (Agenda Item 4.2.1) —
3. In the same agenda packet as referenced in #2 above, you might be interested in the Highway 37 report on page 187 of the Agenda packet included above.
4. Homeless Center being proposed for a piece of property near Guerneville.
5. PRMD fees and service levels. This is always an issue.
6. Specification Issues such as withholding amounts by Petaluma, paving requirements that are unclear to bidders, fire line requirements that add lots of cost to businesses and private owners/developers, conflicting requirements in the Uniform Building Codes that are currently impacting and delaying plan reviews for development projects, and many other issues.
7. The Miracle League Community Relations Project at Luchesi Park in Petaluma for autistic and otherwise challenged young people.