Jack Porter had a better idea. As a fourteen-year veteran County Commissioner for Grady County, OK, he is responsible for all the road maintenance and repairs in District Three. With roughly 515 miles of blacktop to manage, the volume of asphalt consumed by just his one district (the County has three) is quite considerable. But the rising costs of petroleum, for both the road oil that goes in the asphalt mix and the fuel burned in the transportation to deliver a load, saw Porter's budget getting blown in no time. So he found a way to make his own, and will save the County hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing so.
Grady County is located in oil country, and while Porter's district may not have a huge population of people, it definitely has a large population of trucks. With a landfill in the district, three refineries and an oil disposal well, the roads take a beating. "Last year, we had three major floods too, so that didn't help the roads either." All that pressure adds up to plenty of road repairs, which, among all his other responsibilities to the County, keep Porter plenty busy.
The 1,200 square-mile County in central Oklahoma has always dealt with road repairs as just that - a repair. "We had chip sealed our roads for years and years," Porter explains. "But we wanted to take it up a notch and start doing overlays. Since the trucking and cost of blacktop in our area made that cost-prohibitive, we began exploring a way we could afford to make our own."
One would think that such a search would inspire 'solution-oriented' dealers to step up and help find an option that would make that idea a reality. But Porter admits that really wasn't the case. Jim Harmon from The G.W. Van Keppel Company's Oklahoma City branch was the exception. "He showed an interest in wanting to help us solve our problem right away," Porter explains. "Jim sat down with us to better understand how we wanted this to work, and pointed us to the KPI-JCI pugmill plant. Obviously, the pugmill is core to the process of creating that blacktop, so that's where we began to build our process."
With the addition of a pugmill plant, Porter's team would be able to economically - and consistently - mix asphalt at a rate and scale to meet a higher repair standard. "This wouldn't be the first time we've made our own asphalt," Porter admits. "We've done that before here, mixing with graders and other means, but it's a rather cumbersome and slow process. And we had no way of ensuring that each batch came out the same." Creating material in the volume necessary for resurfacing projects would require a more purpose-built solution.
Harmon arranged for Grady County representatives to visit other installations, one in Waco, Texas and the other in Wichita, Kansas, to allow them to see the pugmill plant in operation. Porter found the opportunity to be extremely valuable. "That was really helpful. We really appreciated Jim making that effort for us because we knew we needed [a pugmill] but we'd never really been around one or seen one work. So to get to talk to other people using it and watch it work was such a benefit.
"We talked to a number of others who were using KPI-JCI pugmill plants, some of which have been in use for quite awhile, and they all had great things to say," recalls Porter. "They hadn't experienced any out-of-the-ordinary problems, required easy maintenance and made a great, consistent product. We saw what was coming out of those units in Waco and Wichita for ourselves." The KPI-JCI team contributed as well. "Walt [Wooten, regional manager for KPI-JCI] was really helpful representing the product and ensuring we were comfortable with the service they offered. He really helped to make it happen."
After some additional research and planning, Grady County District Three purchased the KPI-JCI model 52 pugmill plant before the start of the 2008 season. The diesel-electric plant includes a 6-foot pugmill with a hopper feeder, oil injection system and feeding conveyor. Capable of producing up to 200 tons per hour, the mid-range system was the perfect solution for a County looking to manufacture their own blacktop material.