S.M. Hentges & Sons Completes Hamlet Avenue Bridge Replacement
The right equipment helped S.M. Hentges & Sons of Jordan, Minnesota, replace the aging Hamlet Avenue Bridge over Buffalo Creek in Glencoe Township, Minnesota, within budget for the McLeod County Highway Department.
"This was a typical township bridge replacement," says John Brunkhorst, County Engineer for the McLeod County Highway Department in Hutchinson, Minnesota. "The road has a low volume, not many cars. The bridge was deficient to the point it had dropped below the sufficiency rating."
The county, which is responsible for inspecting and constructing township roads, had state funding to replace the bridge, which is used by agriculture in the region to take product to market and construction firms picking up aggregate from a nearby pit for projects.
Creating a Niche Business
S.M. Hentges started in 1981 in the basement of Steve and Jeanette Hentges' house. At the time, the company had five employees, a backhoe and a crane. The company performed site work for a chemical company and then branched out into sewer and water work. S.M. Hentges also builds bridges, and performs concrete paving, site development, and commercial site grading and excavation. Steve Hentges remains active on the operations side of the business. He works long days in the field to get the job done. The right heavy machinery helps.
"The first piece of equipment we bought was a Link-Belt crane," recalls Jeanette Hentges, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of S.M. Hentges & Sons.
The company expanded into more complicated projects, creating a niche for itself. In 1994, S.M. Henteges built a headquarters and had more than 100 employees, performing mostly sewer and water work and digging footings. The company also had a street crew. A concrete division started in 1997.
During the Great Recession, S.M. Hentges expanded into Iowa. Projects in Iowa have included construction of an Iowa River sanitary sewer interceptor in Marshaltown, a south outfall sewer project in Waukee, and the South Grand Prairie Parkway in West Des Moines.
"It turned out to be enough to keep us going," Jeanette Hentges says. "Our employees had to go out of town, but they were willing. Because they had work."
Today, the company has 250 employees.
"Our people are our assets," says Jeanette Hentges. "We always look at our team and crews as our bread and butter. We highly value our employees."
The company initially purchased used equipment. It was about 15 to 20 years before S.M. Hentges started purchasing new equipment. The company now owns Komatsu backhoes, Caterpillar dozers and loaders, Mack Trucks and the Link-Belt crane.
"We buy what is right for what we have to do and consider the longevity," Jeremy Hentge says. "[The success of the company] has taken hard work, dedication and taking the risk, while being conservative on spending. If a job makes money, we put it back into the business. We kept reinvesting and trying to find the best way to spend the money."
The company has expanded into underground utilities, mass grading, curb and gutter, concrete paving, bridges, erosion control, piling and sheeting, and commercial work.
"If you can dream it, we can do it; it's been our business model for the last 37 years," says Jeanette Hentges.
Battling a Wet Summer
The $1 million project is about 56 miles west of Minneapolis. S.M. Hentges & Sons began work in late May 2017 with the demolition and removal of the old bridge, guardrails, metal culverts and bituminous pavement.
"The bridge is a little unique with a portion of it coming through a curve, requiring some super elevation to be built into it," Brunkhorst says.
A potion of the outside lane is elevated and stormwater drains to one side of the bridge, rather than a typical 2 percent crown in the center of the road.
Dan Vanderlinde, with S.M. Hentges & Sons, worked on demolishing the 55-year-old bridge. High water, due to a wet summer with several rain events, presented some problems, he said, but crews drove steel sheeting and that solved the problem.
S.M. Hentges also installed a cofferdam to create a dry work environment. Crews drove piles to support the three-span, 160-foot-long bridge, which has two center piers. Work included clearing and grubbing, excavation for the new structure, pouring foundations, placing the prestressed concrete beams, and pouring the concrete deck.
Crane Operator Tony Johnston, with S.M. Hentges & Sons, called the Link-Belt he was using on this job his favorite crane.
"The controls make it user friendly; they fit your hands," says Johnston, who has 26 years experience as a crane operator. "I like it."
S.M. Hentges purchased the Link-Belt 218HSL Lattice Boom Crawler Crane used on the bridge project from General Equipment & Supplies in Shakopee, Minnesota. The crane features boom lengths from 40 feet to 230 feet. It can lift up to 220,000 pounds. The 218HSL is equipped to handle jobs from lift crane to driving pile and more.
General Equipment & Supplies, founded in 1987, sells, rents, services and fabricates heavy equipment for the construction and aggregate industries. Service technicians and parts specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep jobs moving forward. The company has branches in North Dakota and South Dakota and Minnesota. The company also owns General Aggregate Equipment Sales, serving Canadian customers in Winnipeg and Regina.
"General Equipment & Supplies works hard for our customers and stand firmly on our values to "˜Do the Right Thing, Have Passion, Be Innovative and Work Hard'," said Erika Peterson, with General Equipment & Supplies. "Our mission is to provide the highest quality construction equipment available to protect [customers'] investment in us by employing the best people, expertise and technology in the industry."
S.M. Hentges has worked with General Equipment & Supplies for a number of years.
"We do what we can with them; they are good people," says Jeremy Hentges, Operations Manager at S.M. Hentges. "The Link-Belt puts itself together without the having to put the boom tip on. It saves time, and we move around a bit. Link-Belt has a quality reputation. It's a sturdy crane."
The project was completed at the end of September. An unusual summer full of rain delayed the project, which was Hentges first project for the county highway department.
"Hentges did a good job on the project," Brunkhorst concludes.