By Gerald RogersJanuary 14, 2018
RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- Thousands of contract crews, bolstered by the steadily increasing arrival of critical materials, continue their work to restore the electric power grid of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Soon after Hurricane Maria passed through the island, and damage assessments began, FEMA authorized a contract with Power Precast Products, Corp., Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, to manufacture 45, 55 and 65-feet-long cement utility poles, along with its component self-support base.
The contract was procured through the Bill of Materials, or BOM Squad, part of Task Force Power Restoration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' mission to restore the electrical power grid in Puerto Rico.
"We used the rapid sourcing solutions procurement process to reach out to on-island warehouses and companies to fill material requests," said Army Maj. Gerald W. Halfhide III, a logistics officer from USACE headquarters, and the BOM Squad program manager. "We used market research to ensure the procurement process was fair, but we obviously wanted to help the economy here."
To date, the BOM Squad has issued 14,050 cement, steel and pressure-treated wooden utility poles to construction crews throughout Puerto Rico.
Approximately 5,789 poles are slated to arrive in the next 14 days.
Power Precast Products, Corp. is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The family-owned company currently manufactures 35 cement utility poles and base mountings daily for use by TF Power Restoration.
Sgt. 1st Class Juan Ortiz-Feliciano, a BOM Squad logistician, acts as quality assurance specialist overseeing the manufacture and delivery of the poles to the construction workforce. He said that the company produces between 150 and 200 cement utility poles weekly for distribution to construction crews.
Rio Grande is located in the heart of the El Yunge National Forest, the sole tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system. According to locals, it rains year-round.
"The company's employees work their tails off every day, rain or shine, to meet the daily requirement for 35 utility poles," said Ortiz-Feliciano. "They're truly committed to our mission to get the lights turned back on in their homeland."
Plans are underway at the company to ramp up production levels, and produce 42 utility poles per day in the coming weeks, said Orlando Lugo, engineer and company foreman.
"For 50 years, our company has served Puerto Rico with the highest-quality precast concrete products. To be able to provide these critical materials to help restore our beloved island's electrical power grid is truly an honor," said Lugo.