Saturday, February 18, 2012

2/18/12 - Stone Mason in a Cocoon

All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil.  The fight to the finish spirit is the one ... characteristic we must possess if we are to face the future as finishers.
Henry David Thoreau

As the earth turned and the sun crept higher and closer to the horizon, you could just tell it would be a beautiful day ... no matter where you were in Central Massachusetts.  But especially on the summit of Mt. Wachusett.  And today I was presented with a new sight within the construction site:  a large white cocoon wrapped half-way around the base of the new tower!  Who would have though it possible in the middle of winter?  But there it was.

Giant Cocoon Wrapped about the Eastern-Northern Wall
I walked around curious, knowing that a plastic tarp was left hanging last Saturday, now it has taken on a life of its own - a head, a body, and a tail.

Head - To the Left
With the Head facing south, it wrapped about the base until ...
The Blue Tail - Western Wall

Old Glory Not Disturbed by the Cocoon

And, believe it or not, this creature breaths and speaks... listen.  You can hear two sounds ... the wind flapping the outter skin of the creature, and from within, a deep hollow sound like air being pushed from a bellows.   Hummmm???

Cocoon Head - Detail
Feeding the Cocoon

 Soon after I did my site inspection, a worker appeared to "feed the beast."  And indeed, that's exactly what he was doing!  I entered the open gate and wandered over to speak to him.  He was filling what looked like a small gas tank with fuel so that they could continue heating the monster!  Inside the cocoon, he reported temperatures of up to 70° F, warm enough so that Mick, the Stone Mason was working in shirt sleeves yesterday!  The hissing from inside the skin was a butane tank! 

We talked a bit as I pressed for more details on the schedule and the tower.  First, I asked about the lack of a staircase for the bottom third of the tower.  His answer makes perfectly good sense:  It will be a retractable straight ladder apparatus - so pedestrians like me can't climb to the top from the observation deck!  But the steel as not yet arrived.  That should be in a couple of weeks.

Inside the cocoon, warm temperatures will allow Mick to finish his work sometime this coming week.  And I might add, the forecast looks very good indeed.  He should have no trouble.

And with a few finishing touches on the railings, the external work would appear to be complete.

He did admit that they are so far behind schedule now that they just want to get it over with ... I could hear the disgust and disdain in his voice when I spoke the word schedule.

I asked about landscaping and some type of grand opening that might be planned.  He said that landscaping is pretty much what it is now... "it has always been dirt so that's what it will remain."  He claimed no knowledge of any grand opening or celebration ... once again, his tone spoke of a project that did not go to plan!

[I must add parenthetically that, as reported in The Landmark (2/16/2012 edition)[local weekly newspaper serving Princeton, Holden, Paxton, Sterling, and Rutland, Ma.] by reporter Phyllis Booth, the folks who are paying for this job are not real pleased, to say the least.  There exist a couple of major problems, the first of which, I have not yet observed.

The drainage on Administration Road has caused problems with run-off into wetlands areas.  The road and the drainage area will evidently have to be redesigned and of course, reworked.

Of more obvious note are delays which have continued with the Tower.  Delays have become such a problem in administration of the contract that "they are working without a contract right now," stated DCR Project Manager, Walter Mulligan.  The prime contractor, Construction Dynamics, have evidently performed only about 15% of the work, subbing out the balance.  I know myself that the design was contracted out, the masonry work was contracted out, the painting was contracted out, the electrical was contracted out, the antenna work was contracted out, and most obviously the manufacturing of the ladders, railings, and superstructure was contracted out.  Therein lies the problem.  Steel has been late - essentially the ladders and the railings.  When that failed to arrive as scheduled, a constraint was placed on all follow-on work; the dominoes began to fall out of schedule.

From my surveys, everything was moving along until steel delays came into play.  The masonry work was delayed when supports for railings were not available.  Eventually he worked around that, but still came to a stoppage early in the winter.  There was only so far he could go.  This weeks cocoon-like structure is certainly an unplanned effort to move ahead now that the railings have finally arrived!

According to the individual I spoke with this morning, the balance of the material should show up by March 9th.  Hummmm?  While the lack of a retractable ladder to the floor of the observation deck has probably not impeded much other work, it is still a project delay.  It should have been in place right after the stairway structures went up, but of course, they were late to begin with.  Continuing reports to follow.]

East Side Cocoon - Detail
New and Old

The Old NE Corner

Coastal Survey Mark
Surrounded by bales of hay, the Coastal Survey Mark has remained protected for the past 9 months.  I worried about it from the beginning ... so given there was no snow on the ground as my past forays inside the fence, I took a picture just to be sure.  Passing a rock-pile as I left the site, I also picked a small stone from the leftover facade stones and tucked it into my pocket.  Some time in the future, on a high mountainside in northern Spain, I will place it on a pilgrims cairn along the Camino, the Way of St. James.

Vent on Cab

I noticed some type of vent on the roof of the cab.  Prior pictures don't show it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there.  Perhaps I just missed it with the camera.  Still missing from the top of the cab is the aluminum cage for the antennas.  It remains on the southern edge of the construction site.
Southern Wall Escapes the Cocoon

SW Wall

South to Worcester
Time to leave for the day.  And yes, they were open for the skiers today - a beautiful day to be on the mountain.  Too bad they have only man-made snow to play with!  The woods are filling with buds on the tips of the branches. the cawwwww cawww of the crow and the rat-a-tat-tat of the woodpeckers high in the treetops are now accompanied by the song of birds newly arrived from the south.  Spring is in the air.

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