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January 29, 2015

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Southeast District
 
Longest Serving Southeast Employee to Retire
Q&A with Maintenance Superintendent Lawrence Schumer
 
Lawrence Schumer 40-Year Service Award
Maintenance Superintendent Lawrence Schumer (middle) accepts 40-year service award from Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger (left) and SE District Engineer Mark Shelton (right).

After 42 years of service at MoDOT, Maintenance Superintendent Lawrence Schumer is retiring. Lawrence is the Southeast District’s longest serving employee. During the last four decades with MoDOT, he has seen quite a few changes and had many memorable moments.

Recently, Lawrence was asked several questions to provide a snapshot of his career.

How did your MoDOT career begin?

Connie and I had just gotten married, and I was looking for steady work with insurance. I knew the shed supervisor at the Ste. Genevieve shed, and there was an opening. He talked to the area supervisor, and I was offered the job. Hiring practices were a lot less formal in those days.

What made you want to work at MoDOT?

It was a steady, secure job that offered benefits. I had little training and experience, but in those days a strong back was the main requirement. I also wanted outside work.

What was your favorite part of working at MoDOT?

Initially, working outdoors. Growing up on a farm, this was the type of work I was used to and enjoyed. The biggest thing, though, is the great people I have worked with through the years. Maintenance shed employees are like families, having a lot of fun with each other, arguing at times but having each other’s backs when it counts.

Also, getting the opportunity to advance to my current position has given me personal satisfaction.

What is your most memorable moment of working at MoDOT?

I don’t think I can pick any one thing. There were bad ice and snow storms in the late 70s and early 80s. The flood of 93 is another event that I’ll always remember. More recently, a train struck the Route M overpass in Scott County, causing the structure to collapse. The event happened Memorial Day weekend in 2013. Maintenance's role was primarily when the incident first occurred, but it is something unusual and memorable.

If you could give new employees one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t sit back and wait for others to determine your future, come to work with a positive attitude, work to better your abilities through training and above all be safe. I guess that’s more than one!

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen since you started?

One of the biggest changes is in the equipment we use in maintenance. When I started, most of the trucks were Dodge 2-ton gas trucks with about 4-yard beds. We had no pickups or tandems. We had one truck with a 2-way radio that the shed foreman drove.

Most of our mowers were sickle mowers, and we mowed the entire right-of-way at least twice a year. Our asphalt was all made and laid with a grader. Every shed had large stock piles of rock and mixing boards. Gravel was dried and mixed on the shed lot for patching. When we overlaid a road, contractors would haul rock to the road and spread it. Graders would dry the rock by blading it, and then oil was shot in the rock. The mix was made right on the road and laid.

Another major change is obviously in communication. As I said only one truck had a 2-way radio, no AM/FM radios in the trucks and no cell phones. If you got stuck plowing snow, you had to walk to a house to use a phone or wait until someone come looking for you. If they were calling for snow after hours, you had to hang around your house phone so you would get the call. In addition, there were no answering machines, no computers to check the radar, and weather forecasting was a lot less accurate. Advancements in communication have really increased the efficiency in our maintenance work.

Also, the training offered to employees today didn’t exist back then. I think the value placed on employee development and well-being has increased greatly. There is a much greater emphasis on employee safety now.

But, one thing that hasn’t changed is the great people that I have had the pleasure to work with through the years.

 
 
NB Fruitland Rest Area Converted to Truck Parking
 

On Nov. 25, 2014, a fire at the northbound Fruitland Rest Area left the building unusable and resulted in the facility's closure. But MoDOT made the facility useful again by reopening it Jan. 23 to serve as commercial truck parking.

"We looked at rebuilding the facility versus converting it to truck parking," said MoDOT Assistant District Engineer Matt Seiler. "The cost to rebuild the rest area, not including yearly maintenance contracts, would cost Missouri taxpayers more than $115,000. We weighed that against the number of nearby private businesses offering 24-hour service to travelers. We feel converting the facility to truck parking is the best option for the taxpayers of Missouri."

Trucks
Commercial vehicles comprise approximately 30 to 35 percent of the average daily traffic on our interstates. The conversion of the northbound Fruitland rest area will help reduce the current, unsafe practice of parking on ramps and will provide commercial vehicle operators a place to rest to meet their USDOT requirements.

Once fully converted, the site will offer more than 15 parking spaces for commercial trucks and vault restrooms. Until the vault restrooms are complete, portable restrooms will be available.

"Currently, the cost to maintain the Welcome Centers at Marston and Hayti, as well as the dual Fruitland facilities and northbound Bloomsdale rest area is nearly $1,400,000," said Seiler. "Because of the reduced maintenance with the conversion to truck parking, we are negotiating new rest area cleaning contracts. Any additional cost savings to Missouri taxpayers will be spent to repair roads and bridges."

Missouri began constructing rest areas based on criteria established in 1968. At that time, rest areas were constructed to provide travelers with restroom facilities and a place to stretch their legs. With private businesses now providing these same opportunities and better built vehicles, the need for rest areas is not as critical today. But there is a growing demand for commercial vehicle parking.

"Parking space for commercial vehicles is a nationwide concern," said Seiler. "Commercial vehicles comprise approximately 30 to 35 percent of the average daily traffic on our interstates. More parking will help commercial vehicle operators meet their USDOT requirements to rest and will reduce the current, unsafe practice of parking on ramps."

The Southeast District has previously converted four facilities to truck parking along Interstate 55. Those include the dual rest areas located in Steele, the northbound facility at Marston and the southbound facility at Bloomsdale. All feature parking for commercial vehicles and vault restrooms, while the Bloomsdale facility houses a weigh scale also.

 
Thank You Letter to Maintenance Crew
 

Below is an excerpt from a letter written to the Houston Maintenance Crew:

My wife and I live on a small farm located in Elk Creek, Mo. There are two items we want to share with you as work well done by your employees.

  • I reported a problem with a 2-foot diameter dead elm tree adjoining our property. The tree was actually within the ROW. A strong south wind could have blown the tree into the travel way. I called your foreman, Travis Pearson, and asked him to have a look and if he agreed that it was a safety issue to please remove the hazard. Mr. Pearson responded and took care of the problem timely. Thank you—Mr. Travis Pearson.

  • Sometime last month in November, your crew preformed the task of bush hogging on both sides of Highway H. The operator of that work needs recognition for a job well done. Should you have time for a field trip, please drive by and have a look. A look is better than words.

Thanks to you and your fine crew.

Respectfully,

Rick and Sally Hill

 
 
 

For more info

Nicole Thieret
Customer Relations Manager
Southeast District
573.472.6632
Nicole.Thieret@modot.mo.gov

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