The event was the Topping Off rite that traditionally marks the unofficial “end of the beginning” of a major construction project. The last beam bolted to the superstructure is no ordinary hunk of steel. It’s painted white and inscribed with the signatures of those present – politicians and ironworkers, city staff and union bosses, journalists and casual onlookers – names soon walled over but as permanent as the edifice itself.
Among those on hand to secure their place in history were two who had invested far more than an autograph in the project: Brentwood Mayor Robert Taylor and City Manager Donna Landeros. Taylor welcomed everyone to step up and sign in, and informed the crowd that “we anticipate the parking structure, City Hall and Civic Center will be completed by May or June of 2011, and the park by that October – ready for the holidays.”
Everyone beamed as the ceremonial field beam was hoisted, swung over to the Civic Center’s skeletal silhouette and fastened to the topmost headers by ironworkers Brian Campos and David Alexander.
Landeros, whose current office window faces west toward the future City Hall and gives her a vivid view of project’s progress, described the process so far as “fabulous. Everybody has been working so smoothly. No hiccups. I’m absolutely happy with (general contractor) Lathrop’s work. They have a history in Brentwood. They’ve done Heritage High School, Adams Middle School, the Edna Hill gym. It’s not just a job for them.”
A recurring theme throughout the event was the degree of local labor hired to make the project happen. Of the six carpenters currently on the project’s work force, three hail from Brentwood; one from Oakley. According to Tom Quinn, senior field representative of Carpenters Local Union 152, “We made sure the promises for local hiring were kept. We think it’s really important.”
That sentiment was echoed by Greg Feere, CEO of the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council. “We had more local workers involved in Phase One of this project than The Streets of Brentwood had in its entire construction,” said Feere.
Ironworker business agent Jason Gallia put a number to the local-hiring claim. “Six out of the 14 ironworkers (Local 378) are from Brentwood. And we’re not just putting up beams. As we work our way up the buildings, we’ll be doing ornamental handrails, ornamental fixtures. It’s a complete job.”
One of those local hires, “raising gang” ironworker and Brentwood resident Kenny Smith, wasn’t complaining. “I love it,” said Smith. “The commute’s great: about five minutes – even hitting all the red lights on the way.”
When asked about the effect on the project of this year’s wet winter and spring, Iron Workers Local 378 President Robert Lux reinforced the upbeat tone of the day. “We’re two days ahead of schedule on City Hall and three days ahead of schedule on the Civic Center,” said Lux, confirming Feere’s statement that the project is “coming in under budget and ahead of schedule.”