Carter County Commissioner Bill Baker was looking into renting a pump truck to distribute new cement under a bridge, when he thought “there’s got to be a better way.” Baker, commissioner for District 2, said he couldn’t rationalize spending thousands of taxpayer dollars every time he needed to repair the area underneath a bridge, so he and his team engineered a unique solution.
Using welding equipment, several pieces of metal and some heavy duty bolts, district 2 mechanic Jesse Kinsey crafted a hopper small enough to fit in the back of a pickup truck, but with enough of a chute to pour concrete under any bridge in Carter County.
“When bridges are
undermined we’re able to now direct the flow of the concrete,” Baker said. “The first time we used it, it pretty much paid for itself and now we’re just saving money.”
Baker said that the cost of building the hopper and chute system was roughly $1,500 in parts and labor. He added that every time he rented a pump truck to do the same job, it cost the county around $2,000 per job.
Before the device’s construction, Baker and his crew sat around a table dreaming up the idea — which they said is patent-worthy. Kinsey, who comes from a family of fabricators according to Baker, drew the preliminary design in 20 minutes based on the group’s ideas and went to work welding each piece together. He said that during the process Kinsey made adjustments where necessary and that within a week the hopper was complete.
“This is kinda the way we work together,” Johnny Burckhalter, a mechanic who worked on the project, said. “We all come up with ideas and figure out how to make those ideas work.”
Two weeks ago, the team used the hopper for the first time. In preparation for pouring the concrete under the bridge, the hopper is suspended from the bridge using heavy duty chains and an excavator (commonly known as a track-hoe). Concrete is poured into the hopper and makes its way down the chute onto the desired area. The chute is then maneuvered using a chain that is controlled by a worker.
Currently the chute can reach up to 21 feet, enough to tackle any bridge project in Carter County.
“You come in from one side and can get about halfway,” Kinsey said. “But you can move the hopper to the other side of the bridge to get the other half.”
Because of the district’s ingenuity, Baker is able to save tax dollars to be allocated for other things, like doing more repairs. He said that because each job will cost less in equipment rentals he can now spend more money on concrete, and as a result complete more projects.
Though the hopper has only been used on one job thus far, the team plans on using the piece of equipment on many more projects throughout the county.
“It’s been a big asset for us in our projects that we’ve used it on,” said Mike Stewart, District 2 road foreman.
In creating the idea for the design, Trenton McGee and Wes Christopher also contributed, but were not at the county barn to show off the team’s unique solution to a simple problem.