In 2013, the Construction Division was involved in more than ensuring that authorized projects were built; they were also involved in another type of construction project.
They were rebuilding the division.
“We entered 2013 severely understaffed,” said Steve Duba, Construction Division chief. “During the year, we were able to hire a new deputy, a new chief in the Antilles Office, a new area engineer for the Gulf Coast, and six new resident engineers. We were able to do this despite challenges brought about by sequestration and the government shutdown.”
The new staff members are assuming their positions just in time. After a year in which the Construction Division was responsible for placing $385 million worth of work across dozens of projects, the workload is forecast to increase in 2014.
“2014 is going to be a huge year for us,” said Duba. “Placement will almost double what we did in 2013 and possibly set a new record for the district.”
The projects touch every part of the Jacksonville District footprint, including harbor deepening in Miami, rehabilitation of the 80-year-old Herbert Hoover Dike and finishing a brand new dam on the Portugués River in Puerto Rico, the last component of the Portugués and Bucana Flood Control project. In 2013, the Construction Division managed 100 contracts with a combined value of more than $1.6 billion, which, Duba says, was also an all-time record.
“We’ve been a part of dredging in Jacksonville, Tampa, Canaveral and Port Everglades,” said Duba. “We’ve been working Everglades restoration projects in the Kissimmee River and the Seminole Big Cypress Basin, and we’ve been supporting the construction efforts of our Department of Defense partners at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and at Fort Buchanan in San Juan.”
The division finished work on the Tamiami Trail bridge west of Miami, and on a refueling facility for the Florida Air National Guard.
Despite the pace of the work and the staffing challenges, great strides were also made on work site safety.
“Working closely with Tony Santana and the staff of the district safety office, we saw a 70 percent reduction in contractor accident rates on our job sites,” said Duba.
Duba had high praise for his staff.
“They bring a lot expertise and experience,” he said. “Even the new people have extensive experience in other districts. We’re very diverse. We may be stretched thin at times, but they got us through a difficult period while at the same time putting up with a cantankerous chief.”