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Synergy Contracting Helps City of Mitchellville Expand Its Infrastructure

by: Ryan Johnson, APR
Synergy Contracting uses a Doosan DX530LC-5 Excavator on a mass excavation in Mitchellville, Iowa.
Synergy Contracting uses a Doosan DX530LC-5 Excavator on a mass excavation in Mitchellville, Iowa.
Synergy Contracting recently completed a new collection system and lift station replacement for the City of Mitchellville, Iowa, as the rural community continues to expand.

Mitchellville is 20 miles northeast of Des Moines and home to approximately 2,500 residents. As the Greater Des Moines community continues to grow, smaller communities like Mitchellville are experiencing an increase in population and residents who commute to the capital city for work. With more people comes the need for increased infrastructure to support the town’s development.

Project Details
The scope of the city’s construction project called for a new pump station, including a precast concrete well, submersible pumps, and ancillary equipment. The project specifications also called for Synergy Contracting – an Altoona, Iowa-based site utility and horizontal directional drilling contractor – to perform the underground installation of pipes for the force main and sanitary sewer, as well as the concrete box culvert.

Brandan Smith is the Chief Operating Officer at Synergy Contracting and has been with the company since 2010. He has construction management experience and ensures the company’s projects stay on schedule. This infrastructure project took the contractor approximately six months to complete.

“The City of Mitchellville project brought all of our different skill sets into play in one project,” Smith said. “That was a project where we built a lift station from the ground up. We installed a good amount of open cut sanitary sewer and force main. We utilized our company’s directional boring expertise, and we were able to have our structure crews build a cast-in-place box culvert.”

According to the bid specs, Synergy was hired by the city to install 2,850 linear feet of 10-inch force main, 2,500 linear feet of 12-inch sanitary sewer and 540 linear feet of 8-inch sanitary sewer. The project also called for manholes, sanitary sewer services and reconnections, connections to the city’s existing system, and 90 linear feet of 5x4 reinforced concrete box culvert.

Unexpected Challenges
As with any underground construction project, there are bound to be some challenges. This project was no exception.
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“There are always unsuspected things in the ground, whether it be pipes we didn’t know about or just the lay of the land on this project,” Smith said. “We were in the backyards of people’s homes, digging 20 feet deep. There’s a challenge there working with the public and making sure that we’re respecting our boundaries.

“What we do impacts homeowners. We have to walk a tightrope of making sure that we’re respecting their area, respecting their time and still providing them with a good job in the end. Also, the tight quarters that we work in is always one of the biggest challenges.”

From Mini to Heavy-Duty Excavators
Working in locations from homeowners’ backyards to the larger open-cut portions of the project meant a variety of construction equipment was needed. Synergy Contracting operated both mini excavators and large crawler excavators during various stages of the pipe and structural concrete work. Smith, along with Owner Jesse Rognes, partnered with RTL Equipment in Grimes to secure the right machines for the tasks.

On the project were Doosan DX530LC-5, DX350LC-5 and DX235LCR-5 crawler Excavators for most of the mass excavation and open-cut areas. For the smaller, more confined spaces on homeowner properties, Synergy Contracting relied on Doosan DX85R-3 and DX35-5 Mini Excavators. The excavators were outfitted with both buckets and plate compactors, adding the versatility needed to help the project stay on schedule. Although Synergy Contracting was fairly new to the Doosan brand, the compact and heavy construction equipment impressed them.

“They’re efficient, quick machines,” Smith said. “They hold up and are durable. And the overall visibility allows me to see everything around me. Also, the customer service that we receive from RTL Equipment, and being taken care of by their salesman Devin, is a benefit.”

Thanks to the mild weather conditions and little precipitation in late December, Synergy Contracting employees were able to keep working and finish the project before year-end. The trio of large crawler excavators worked efficiently to backfill the area where the box culvert would be installed. After material was placed by the excavator’s bucket, a second machine with a plate compactor followed to compact the material. All of this was going on while employees worked carefully around existing utilities that were exposed during the excavation process.

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“We have to make sure that we don’t cause any damage to the existing utilities in the ground,” Smith said. “It’s one of those hurdles that we have to go through daily. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to protect the existing utilities.”

Synergy Contracting crews operated the Doosan mini excavators and installed the 4-inch service pipe that runs to the homeowners’ residences. Operators also used the mini excavators toward the end of the project to trench for underground drainage away from some of the homes.

As the project wound down, Synergy Contracting hired a subcontractor to do the final step of paving the streets: Choice Concrete out of Altoona.

“We really used everyone on our team for that project to get it done,” he said. “It was a tough job, but with everybody that we have and the skilled people, it went pretty smoothly.”

As the name implies, Synergy Contracting promotes itself as being able to bring together employees and work toward a common goal. Since it was founded by Jesse Rognes in 2003, the company has always sought to collaborate within its organization, as well as partner with other companies to find the best solution.

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“Synergy is bringing everything together, multiple pieces for the greater good, and that’s what we do,” Smith said. “We’ve done a lot of jobs that we’ve never done before, just because they’re very unique, and we take those on and seem to do well with them. To sum it up, we specialize in the tough stuff, whatever that may be.”

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