Quick thinking by a family-owned El Cajon construction/relocation firm enabled the company to keep its $8 million project on schedule despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
By adjusting the timing of its work at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve and nimbly moving many of its operations online, CBSI was even able to catch up on time lost due to March rains.
“A couple of weeks ago, the biggest thing we were concerned about was all the rain and what it was doing to our site. Overnight, it pretty much changed with the coronavirus happening” said David Suter, the CBSI president in charge of the company’s day-to-day operations.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom first ordered a government shutdown, CBSI sent all its workers home
A day later, when the company learned that construction was exempt from the shutdown, CBSI geared back up to resume construction but with new safety measures in place.
Staff Back Working With 24 Hours
“We had to pause one day, then plan over the weekend, then get started Monday morning,” Suter said. “We got our staff working at home within 24 hours.”
Designed by Platt/Whitelaw Architects of San Diego, the project includes construction of a new 2,045 square-foot administration building for park staff, renovation of an existing 1,960 square-foot general store with the addition of an 800 square-foot kitchen, and construction of a 4,664 square foot steel framed dining deck stretching over the water of Lake Four from the general store.
The administration building will accommodate an ongoing full-time staff of about 12, include four offices, a conference room, open work space, public and staff restrooms, a break room and a locker room for park staff.
The wood frame building has wood siding with a stucco finish and stone veneer on the outside.
Built by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the 190-acre Santee Lakes attracts about 750,000 visitors annually,
“We’ve been very cautious on the construction site so it does not affect the day-to-day park functions and the park guests,” David Suter said.
When the park was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, park guests were no longer an issue.
Took Advantage of Change
CBSI moved quickly to take advantage of the change by moving up work on project infrastructure.
“What this allowed us to do, which we had been doing a small piece at a time, was to do the undergrounding of the storm drains, the sewer lines, those items that we were going to have schedule on off-hours, off-times,” Suter said. “This has allowed us to jump forward on our schedule and really start opening up the ground to get that infrastructure in as quickly as we can.”
In addition to the sewer, electrical, communication, water lines and several hundred feet of eight-inch to 18-inch storm drain lines, CBSI is building five storm water retention basins.
Back On Track
“The rain had forced us to slow down,” David Suter said. “We have been able to catch back up and get on the track we wanted to be on.”
Rescheduling the physical construction at Santee Lakes was but one part of the quick adjustments CBSI had to make because of COVID-19, said Sara Suter, CBSI vice president and David Suter’s wife.
A big part of the company’s work at Santee Lakes included on-site management, but with the government ordering people to work from home whenever possible, CBSI shifted to virtual project.
“That was a big shift for us when we moved our company from the office to home,” Sara Suter said. “It’s been a really smooth transition.”
The company had been overseeing the Santee Lakes project with weekly on-site meetings with everyone from architects to city officials.
Meetings Moved Online
“We moved it online so everyone should stay home,” Sara Suter said.
Said David Suter, “It’s just a whole different way of doing construction.”
With the project back on schedule, the company expects to finish the administration within the next four to six weeks then move on to the renovation of the general store.
General Store Renovation
“Once we’ve moved into there, we’ll start work on the general sore,” David Suter said.
The general store renovation is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2021
The steel deck with 19 concrete casing sunk 27-feet into the ground will be the final piece of the project.
The company expects to finish the administration within the next four to six weeks then move on to the renovation of the general store.
Lead With Coffee
In addition to its construction and relocation business, David and Sara Suter have created a second platform called Lead with Coffee that includes a website, podcast and short videos it calls Coffee Talk Tuesday posted every week on social media.
“We hope that we can continue opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis to support companies that are, they call it, right-sizing,” Sara Sutter said.
CBS was formed in 1987 by Lou Suter, who serves as CEO.
In addition to Santee Lakes, the company is managing 15 projects for SDG&E, Sara Suter said.
The company has been growing steadily, with revenue rising from $1.3 million in 2018 to $2.2 million in 2019.
Its goal is to reach $3 million in 2020.
“The opportunities are growing even though we’re in crisis,” Sara Suter said.