Utility Construction In Santa Rosa County

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

Utility construction is doing well in Florida's Santa Rosa County, and one of the contractors making it happen is Santa Rosa Boring. The company is using excavators, mini loaders and boring machines to handle a variety of utility-related projects in this fast-growing Pensacola area.

Raymond Connor, owner of Santa Rosa Boring, gained his first equipment operating experience early on.

"My dad was in the site prep, clearing and water line business," he recalls, "and I was running a backhoe by the time I was 11 years old."

Connor established Santa Rosa Boring in 1996.

"I started out with a 1-ton truck and the smallest boring machine I could find, a 920 Ditch Witch," he says. It was a big step, he says, and things were tight at first. "I had just $37 left in the bank when I made the first payment."

But the company has grown steadily since that start over a decade ago. Today, Santa Rosa Boring operates two crews — a boring crew and a mainline crew — and handles water and sewer jobs for subdivisions, utilities and municipalities throughout Santa Rosa County.

One recent project, for example, involved installation of 13,000 feet of 12-inch reclaimed water line to serve several subdivisions in the Pace, Fla., area for the expanding Pace area water system.

The main excavator working on this project has been Santa Rosa Boring's new Kubota KX080 excavator, the largest of the Kubota excavators. He worked with Chris Dixon of Coastal Machinery in Pensacola to select the machine, which joins another Kubota excavator — a smaller KX121-3 — on many of the company's projects.

This particular KX080 was featured at the American Rental Association show in Atlanta — and after the show it was shipped directly to Santa Rosa Boring, where it was quickly put to work. The KX080 is outfitted not only with a bucket thumb but also with a quick-coupler system and with buckets from 12 inches to 36 inches, and with a front dozer blade. These attachments allow the machine to handle tasks ranging from concrete removal at driveway crossings, to trenching under a variety of conditions, to backfilling the trench once the pipe is in place.

A major challenge on this project has been the need to work in close proximity not only to a buried fiber optic cable but also to a high-pressure gas line.

"That kind of situation is an everyday occurrence out here," Connor says, adding, "The days of the wide-open right of way are over."

On this project, in fact, there have even been times when Connor has had to literally work between the fiber optic line and the gas line. In those cases the KX080's 18-inch bucket has allowed Connor to work effectively in such tight quarters, and when things got even tighter he'd switch to a12-inch bucket.

"But we also have a 36-inch bucket," he says, "and I like to use that one when we can."

Existing utilities have also impacted the project above-ground. In some areas, numerous utility poles and guy wires have left very little working room in some areas. In such places Connor has made extensive use of the smaller Kubota KX121-3.

The reclaimed water pipe — color-coded light purple for easy identification — is transported to the job site on a trailer. At the site, individual pipe joints are lifted from the trailer and set into the trench by a Kubota R5205 mini wheel loader outfitted with forks and a pipe lifting clamp.

Another machine on the project is a Bobcat T300 track loader. The Bobcat also handles backfilling operations.

The project also included two directional bores — one with a length of 200 feet and one with a length of 600 feet. These 14-inch bores were completed using a Vermeer boring machine.

When selecting equipment, Connor says, he looks for a combination of speed and strength — and he's always got an eye on durability. With the kind of work he does, he notes, "We can't afford to have something that's got to be in the shop all the time. We need our machines out here in the field."

The pay-off, he adds, is quick turnaround of projects — and happy owners.

"Right now," he says, "we're 46 days ahead of schedule on this job."

And that, he adds, is what he likes to see.