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Expanding The Business, Step 12: When Things Go Wrong

Joe Marconi


Setbacks are inevitable. Some are controllable. Others are not. Three weeks ago we planned on pouring the cement slab and finish the sidewalks, but the weather turned too cold. With temperatures in the low 20’s and a bone-chilling wind, the mason decided to wait. This past week, Mother Nature cooperated, and with temperatures in the mid 40’s; we finished the slab and sidewalks. The mason and his crew worked till midnight the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I have a deep respect for people in the trades.


A major setback occurred this week and is yet not resolved. It threatens the project and may delay the opening of the new facility. This setback has to do with the Department of Transportation. (DOT). First of all, you cannot build anything in this country without intervention from government agencies. And I swear, the pyramids would probably still be in the planning stages if we had government intervention back then. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure if the word “intervention” is correct. It’s more like government “interference”.


Before a shovel is put into the ground you need the approval of the Town Planning Board, Town Zoning Board and the Architectural Review Board. The Department of Transportation gets involved, along with the Environmental Protection Agency. If you survive this, there’s the bank loan process to add a few more gray hairs. This process for me took about 2 years. So, as you might have guessed by now, I have had it with regulations and government agencies. But anyway, here’s what happened…


The DOT has their input with respect to the driveways and curbs out on the road. I had to get a DOT permit and issue a bond before any work was started. In the permit are certain specifications that the site engineer must conform to when he draws his plans. The excavator follows the plans, grades the property and constructs the curbs in accordance with the approved site plan.


Before work is started we needed to inform the DOT and ask for a meeting, which we did. When we called the DOT, the agent assigned to our case said, “Just let me know when it’s done and I will come out and inspect the site”. That was our first mistake.


Our second mistake occurred when we called the DOT agent just before we did the actual excavation work on the DOT section of the property (the driveway and curbs). The agent again told us to call him when the job was complete. And that’s exactly what we did.


We completed the curbs, blacktop and driveways and called the DOT agent. After repeated calls to his office he finally came out and guess what he said? You guessed it… The work is not acceptable. There’s a problem with the driveway grades. The shoulder of the road needs to slop away from the center of the road according to the specifications stated in the permit. This was Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The same day the mason worked till midnight to finish the concrete slab. What’s more annoying is that the DOT agent was out to site on Monday and never said anything to anyone. No one knew he came out. No one saw him. I had to finally call him Wednesday afternoon, only to find out he did come and he would not approve the work. And to top things off, he is leaving early for the holiday. Early for the holiday! I guess it’s nice to have a cushy government job these days, while the mason has to put in a 16-hour day just to have off on Thanksgiving!


The DOT SOB never came out when we asked for a meeting at the start of project, never came out when we asked to meet before we started the work on the DOT section of the property and we had to beg him to come out to inspect the work once competed. And he did not even identify himself when he did come out and never called me. I had to call him.


What’s the lesson in all this? Cross every “T” and dot every “I”. Do your due diligence. In the DOT permit, it is advised that a meeting be set up with the contractor and site engineer. Don’t listen to a lazy DOT agent. Insist on the meetings, go over the site plans and get everything in writing. I blame myself only because I am the one who needs to overcome this obstacle. After all, the DOT agent went home to a nice early holiday weekend. I know he enjoyed his holiday bird while I ended feeling like a turkey.


Stay tuned!


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