Robinson lends labor to city to keep workers on the job

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Perryville residents may notice some new faces working on city projects during coming weeks.

In an effort to keep a number of their employees on the job in the wake of layoffs and slowdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Perryville-based Robinson Construction is lending some of its labor force to the city.

“We think it’s a very gracious and generous offer and we’re very appreciative,” said Perryville city administrator Brent Buerck. “We’ve worked these last couple of weeks with a reduced workforce and that had slowed some of the progress we had hoped to make on some projects and this could help catch us up.”

Robinson president Paul Findlay told the Republic-Monitor on Friday that lending a hand to the city wasn’t a hard decision to make.

“It’s part of who we are and it’s part of what we need to do in our opinion,” Findlay said. “We’re just glad to be capable of doing that.”

Earlier this month, Robinson laid off approximately 80 workers — nearly half of those assigned — from a project in Bloomfield. The decision was made along with the company’s clients and arose out of a sense of caution in an effort to help protect workers as best they could from possible infection by COVID-19.

In the wake of that decision, company leadership began discussing ideas to keep as many workers employed as possible.

According to Findlay, he and CEO Frank Robinson quickly landed on a plan.

“The other day, when Frank and I were talking, we decided to try to keep as many employees working as we possibly could, that maybe we take this opportunity to donate some labor services to the city,” Findlay said.

Robinson then placed a call to Perryville city administrator Brent Buerck to make the offer.

“Brent very quickly came back to us with a list of a dozen small projects that the city needed to get done,” Findlay said.

“I think we’ve got five or six that lined up, and, hopefully given a little more time, we can recruit up a little bit for that and maybe put 10 or 12 guys out working for the city on some projects that they need to get done.”

“I think we’ve got a pretty good list of little projects that we could take care of for them.”

Among the projects the city suggested were installing 1,400 feet of water line on Crestview, connecting water service lines to a new city main on Harvest Circle, installing a culvert under the road by City Park’s Field 8 and replacing a culvert under the asphalt street in County Lake Estates, rehabbing the Northdale Lift Station, sidewalk installation and curb repairs throughout the city and beginning dirt work on the Lucas & Friends accessible playground.

The full list of projects — which numbered 15 in all — was approved by the Perryville Board of Aldermen during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I would like to commend Robinson Construction on stepping up and helping the city,” said Ward 2 Alderman Curt Buerck. “I think that’s pretty awesome.”

Findlay said the project list gave the company plenty of options.

“Several of them are around the parks, trying to get parks back in shape or better shape for when we can all go back,” Findlay said.

“We’re just trying to give the city a little bit of help and, at the same time, keep as many of our employees working as possible.”

In addition, Findlay said the Robinson team has their eye on one project special to the company — the Lucas & Friends Accessible Park.

“We want to see if we can provide a jumpstart to the accessible playground,” Findlay said.

“That project is dear to our hearts because it’s one of our employees — one of our employee’s sons, actually — that’s been trying to get that project going.”

The project is the brainchild of Lucas Fritsche, the 11-year-old son of Jennifer Fritsche, an employee at Robinson Construction.

The project — which Fritsche conceived as a third grader — involves constructing an all-inclusive, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant playground aimed providing side-by-side playtime to everyone, of any age, with any disability.

The project is currently raising funds to start construction.

“We just picked up the plans from [Baer Engineering] the other day on dirt work but we haven’t had enough planning time to be able to jump on that project,” Findlay said Friday.

“We’re going to try to put a little project management effort into it and see if we can get that job moving the following week. If we can do that, we’ll have another five or six workers out there.”

Buerck said that while Robinson is providing the labor for the projects, the city will be responsible for materials and, in some cases, equipment rental.

Findlay said the agreement will be good for the company and city.

“Really, it’s a function of our making sure we’ve got the right people available to do the projects that the city wants to get done,” Findlay said.

“Right now we’ve got five or six lined up. I’m thinking that we can probably double that for the week after.

So if we get 10, 12, 15 people working for the city for the next six or eight weeks, I think it will be good for both of us.”

Buerck agreed, calling the plan a “great idea.”

“I was very surprised when I got the phone call,” Buerck said. “I was very excited.

It’s kind of neat things you can do in small towns with good people.”

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