Behind the Tap: Construction Services Inspectors Garfield Cousins and Willie Moore
Meet Garfield Cousins and Willie Moore. Both are Construction Services Inspectors who work in CCWA’s Program Management/Engineering Department. They manage pipeline replacement projects throughout our county. It would be easy to think that their job consists of riding by a job site checking on a contractor’s work. However, there is a lot more to what they do. They manage a project from start to finish beginning with the design, which is completed inhouse by CCWA Engineering staff.
Garfield (shown on the right) is one of five inspectors who manage large capital improvement projects. He mostly manages sanitary sewer and stormwater projects. He has worked on sanitary sewer replacement and new installation projects along Jesters Creek, Flint River and near Ft. Gillem. His current project, Jesters Creek East Phase 1, contains 8,260 feet of 36” pipe from Hwy. 138 to Battle Creek Road.
Willie (shown on the left) is one of four inspectors who manage annual contracts for water, sewer and stormwater projects. He specializes in 2-inch galvanized water main replacements using copper and Stormwater and Sanitary Sewer Cured-in Place (CIPP) projects. He recently completed a 2” galvanized water main replacement project in Mill Run Subdivision and is currently working a similar replacement project of 4,290 ft. 2” Copper in Lynley Estates. Upcoming projects include a 2”galvanized project in North Pond Subdivision (1,605 ft.) and a Grant Road sanitary sewer upgrade project where 1,114 ft. of pipe will be upsized from 8” to 12” to accommodate the area’s growth.
When asked what they like most about their jobs, Willie said he loves the planning and seeing it complete. “Putting the job together, especially once the contract gets executed the way it was designed. “Once you hit that nail on the head and come in within budget, it is pretty satisfying.”
He also appreciates that their supervisors will give you a task and allow you to think for yourself to reach a result. “They rely on you being able to think independently to reach a result instead of giving initial direction. It forces you to stretch your mind and teach yourselves through research.”
“I love the responsibility,” said Garfield. “We are involved in design, estimating, budgeting and making sure the contractor is getting paid for the work done. I have to verify what the contractor does and sign off on it. Getting work orders, purchase orders to pay for materials, to pay contractor, billing the job, etc. It’s like a puzzle. You put everything together, the whole process of beginning to end.”
Another favorite part of the job is when it is complete. “I walk the jobsite and look at the restoration, which always looks better than before,” Garfield added. “I open each manhole top and see the sewer flowing better than before the project started. That gives me great satisfaction.”
During the design process, inspectors assess existing conditions. They walk each job site, take measurements (manhole depths, pipe distance) and meet with contractors. With Willie’s projects, inspectors provide contractors with designed Plan and Profile sheets for them to form an estimate. Inspectors will also form an estimate and compare quantities to ensure that all work that will take place is captured in the estimate before requesting funds.
“For us, the design phase is so critical. A lot of times you cannot go back in the same line. Conditions change over time. So you have to reassess the lay of the land and existing conditions,” said Garfield.
Due to the type of work Willie manages, he deals with contractors who work with CCWA through annual contracts. Garfield, on the other hand, manages jobs that are bid out specifically so he often works with contractors who have never worked with CCWA before. When an inspector works with a new contractor, he has to ensure the contractor understands CCWA’s specifications and expectations. If contractors are used to working with other entities, they can find CCWA’s expectations tougher than others.
“We are tasked with making sure they abide by the contract,” added Garfield. “Contracts are based on engineering specs. If those are not followed, it opens you up to failure a couple of years down the road. It is our name on the line, so we take the responsibility serious.”
Inspectors are also tasked with acquiring easements for each property the pipeline traverses. Easements are needed when CCWA needs access to private property to complete a project (temporary construction easements) or for long-term maintenance of the buried infrastructure (permanent easements). The property is still owned by the private property holder. The easement just allows CCWA access. For all easements, inspectors have to verify easement drawings are correct and match county tax parcel information, notify property owners, meet with them and negotiate a price. Garfield worked with another inspector to build the easement acquisition process instead of paying an outside consultant to get the easements. Garfield has negotiated/acquired more than 200 easements with his large capital improvement projects.
Another aspect of their jobs is ordering materials for the job or contractor. This is how CCWA can control costs since it typically costs up to 10 percent more for contractors to purchase materials. Inspectors have a spreadsheet to keep up with costs/payments on CCWA’s end, which they compare to the contractor’s spreadsheet.
Both said their biggest challenges include obstacles on a job site and tracking down rental property owners for easements. Many properties are owned by LLCs, or the owners live in other states or countries – from Israel to the U.S. Virgin Islands to New York and California. While it can be time consuming to track down owners, they both enjoy meeting people from different countries and ethnicities.
Both guys said they appreciate that throughout their careers at CCWA, their supervisors have pushed them to learn as much as they can and grow in their careers. Both worked in CCWA’s Conveyance (wastewater) maintenance section before working as inspectors. Their time in that department helped them understand how our infrastructure works once it is in the ground. Now as inspectors, they get to see the whole process from design to construction to completion. “Construction Services has continued to help me evolve and develop my career,” added Willie “I really appreciate the opportunities that continue to teach me why our infrastructure works so efficiently here at the Water Authority.”
“Inspecting was nothing like I expected, said Garfield. “It is a huge responsibility. We are managing projects from $20,000 up to $11 million.”
It is a huge responsibility, and it is easy to see that both take it to heart. #waterprofessionals