Praise for paving crew

David Baker leads the crew which includes Seamus Nugent, Dan Baker, Aaron Stafford, Michael Brewer and Ben Pryor.

Snowy Valleys Council had two main options when considering how to do their $1.76 million upgrade of Tumut’s CBD; do they hire a contractor to tear up the main street ‘hard and fast’ or trust the local guys to stage the paving project around local business hours and openings?

SVC chose the latter and put David Baker (Team Leader – Concrete and Drainage) in charge. With 34 years of experience with the council, Mr Baker said his priority was to reduce the impact on local shops.

“It’s been very hard,” he said, demonstrating how the crew has used ramps and traffic cones to keep lanes open to the front of each business. 

“You’ve got to do it in sections or you will run into trouble [for the shops] if you rip everything out.”

On Monday, the crew were allowing pedestrians to walk through their work area in front of the NAB since the corner was too narrow to make a path around it.

“I’d rather bring them through the job than get someone run over,” said Mr Baker.

Mr Baker said he remembered laying a portion of the original terracotta pavers on Wynyard St, between Capper and Russell, when he was a new employee. That time, the crew tore up entire stretches of the CBD in order to finish the job more quickly. He said that caused significant interruptions for businesses and generated a lot of complaints.

“That was major, they did the gutters and the road and everything,” he said. 

“I didn’t think I’d ever see it done again, but I reckon it looks pretty good now.”

His crew of seven are made up of four permanent SVC employees and three casuals. When they’re not working in the CBD, they’re doing other work with SVC’s infrastructure, playgrounds and general concreting. 

“Whatever they want us to do, we do it,” said Mr Baker. 

The crew started on the project on July 10 and shopkeepers along the finished sections have resoundingly positive things to say about the work and attitude of the men.

“I’m really happy, I have no complaints,” said Virgina Robinson at Inside Out after the crew finished the bulk of the work in front of her store in just two days. 

“They’re a really pleasant, happy team and so accommodating. I don’t think they could be any better.”

Hansie Armour, owner of The Connection, was similarly impressed.

“They’re really a nice mob of people,” she said.

Mr Baker said he just lets the guys get on with their work 

“They’re a pretty good bunch of blokes and good workers, nothing worries them. It’s hard to find people like them. They really get in and have a go.

“Council’s probably lucky to have them, because they’ve been offered jobs elsewhere but they stayed,” he said. 

He said the workers prefer having permanent, stable work in town, so they’ve turned down higher paying jobs which would be temporary or require travel.

Dan Baker and Mick Brewer have been doing some of the more complicated work, cutting the angles to make the small, square tiles fit along the buildings and curved roadways.

“They’re pretty experienced, so put the good blokes on those jobs, because they know what they’re doing,” said Mr Baker.

The men have been cutting the tiles off-site to keep the mess and noise away from the CBD.

“There’d be white powder everywhere,” he said.

The crew started on the CBD on July 10 and plan to be finished by Christmas. If the project isn’t looking like it will be finished by late December, Mr Baker said they’ll put it on hold so they don’t interrupt downtown shopping.