Construction crews fight temps, deadlines

Minot Public Schools wasn’t the only organization to cancel activities Monday. Many area construction crews were either diverted to indoor projects or sent home to wait until the weather improves.

Jay Hight, president of Hight Construction, was actually stuck in a Minneapolis airport Monday due to the extremely cold weather. He said the cold temperatures have definitely had an impact on the ability of his crews to get work done.

“We’ve got a couple jobs that we’ve got working outside and we haven’t been able to do anything,” Hight said, noting he’s two to three weeks behind on one project.

Although the weather has made outdoor projects difficult to work on, Hight has been able to find some indoor jobs for his crews to tackle so nobody has had to stay home and lose part of their paycheck.

“I’ve been fortunate enough where I’ve had other jobs that are inside where I could shift some crews over to them and kind of make some arrangements to have a crew somewhere just for a few days so I can keep everybody working, basically, instead of sending them home,” he said.

Those indoor jobs include an addition at Bishop Ryan High School, remodeling an office building in downtown Minot and some homes that have gotten to the interior stage of construction.

Even when his crews have been able to get outside, Hight said production is lower than normal because they are working against the weather as well as the deadline.

“You lose time with guys wearing bulky clothes, they can only move around so fast. You’ve got time letting your equipment warm up in the morning before you use it. You have warm-up breaks. It’s just things like that,” Hight said. “You lose time during the day even when you can work outside.”

His employees aren’t the only thing the weather has been hard on, either.

“We’ve had lots of equipment breakdowns and lots of trucks that won’t start. We do snow removal and that type of stuff and we’ve had lots of breakdowns with the weather,” Hight said. “It just seems like we’ve really had to pick our days for when we can work outside in December. I think it’s one of the colder Decembers on record. It just seems like it was only really warm around Christmastime.”

He said this winter has been extremely hard to work through, and basically all of his outside jobs are behind schedule at this point because of the weather.

“I’m hoping once the weather breaks we can work some extra days or some weekends or something to get things caught up,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to work some overtime to get caught back up just because I’ve only got a limited number of people and when you’ve got jobs that you need to be working on that are sitting for a week here and a week there and all of a sudden you lost a couple weeks, it’s hard to get back on schedule.”

Hight said this winter has presented abnormal challenges as far as weather and temperature goes. He noted last winter had some cold days, as well, but not nearly as many as this year.

“You might get a couple below-zero days and then you might lose a day or two out of a week, but instead we’re losing five, six at a time,” he said.

Leo Schmidt, construction sales at Mindt Construction, said they have been lucky to not lose any workdays to cold weather this winter.

“We’ve been able to find enough other work to keep the guys busy,” Schmidt said, noting there are several indoor projects they work on when it’s cold. “Just shift everybody around a little bit.”

Fortunately, they’ve also been able to stay on top of their outdoor projects despite all the cold days and aren’t behind schedule on them.

When they do work outside in colder weather, Schmidt said they take all the usual precautions to stay warm and safe on the job site.

“In this industry you just get used to this weather and you deal with it,” Schmidt said.

They have also been fortunate to not suffer many equipment breakdowns, which has as much to do with they type of equipment they run as it does with timely maintenance and a little luck.

“We don’t have a lot of big outdoor equipment,” Schmidt said. “We don’t have to run a bunch of hydraulic equipment with what we do.”