Topping-Off marks DISA milestone
A worker on the construction site for the Defense Information Systems Agency complex writes his name along with dozens of others on a steel beam about to be attached to a building under construction along Cooper Avenue. The beam represents the last major piece of steel to be added to the construction project, under way since 2008. The site is scheduled for completion by September 2011.

In the history of Fort Meade, a steel beam has probably never attracted as much attention as one did last week.

Dozens of people craned their necks to watch as a piece of metal weighing more than half a ton swung through the air. They let loose a round of applause and whoops as the beam came to rest in the frame of one building in the Defense Information Systems Agency headquarters complex.

The praise wasn't for just any hunk of metal. The 37.5-foot-long piece of steel feted Friday in a Topping-Off ceremony was the last major beam added to the entire complex.

"This is outstanding," said Steve Fargiano, area superintendent for quality control with Hensel Phelps Construction, which is leading the building process that sprawls across Cooper Avenue along Rockenbach Road. "It means we're that much closer to completing the final product."

Of course, the adulation came as many in the crowd, composed primarily of construction workers, members of the Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, and post employees had a personal stake in the beam. Written on the steel in red, blue and black ink were names such as "Big D," "Sgt. Ramsey, Quincy," "Donna Leketa" and of others in attendance who will become part of the facility's fabric.

The moment celebrated a milestone in the $185 million-construction effort that has been under way since the April 2008 ground breaking. Nearly 4,300 tons of steel has been erected on the construction site.

Still, with about 450 workers currently laboring to finish the complex by 2011, it is the site's safety record that seems to please project superintendent Dwane Evans the most.

"Not a single person has lost a day's pay due to injury loss-time accidents," he said.

But even with the Topping-Off ceremony behind the DISA construction team, much work lays ahead before the completion date, with the facility currently only about 40 percent finished.

As the weather turns colder in fall and winter, work will shift inside. Outside, workers will pour asphalt for roads and parking lots as well as lay out sidewalks, Evans said.

"It's definitely different," he said. "There's still a lot happening."

Even as the morning ceremony came to an end, workers didn't head off to an early weekend to celebrate, but dispersed to jobs across the construction site.

"It's not kickback time," said Ernest Porter, a construction representative and quality assurance engineer with the Corps of Engineers. "You have to stay on course."

Page last updated Fri August 21st, 2009 at 12:10