If you have any lingering doubts about the Downtown Plaza Park makeover, as we did, lay them to rest. Though it is not meeting its timeline, the ambitious project is proceeding under the capable supervision of one Brian Vickery, foreman for the BCM Construction Company Inc. Vickery is about what you’d expect from a man in charge of such a construction project—a gruff, barrel-chested guy with stout forearms (a fading greenish-blue tattoo on the left one), muddy work boots, blue jeans and a white hardhat. A very accommodating guy, Vickery, 65, took time from his busy schedule to talk with us. He has a salty vocabulary ("Sorry,” he said, “it’s construction language") and speaks with a hint of an accent that almost sounds East Coast but in reality is the inflection of an Australian who moved to the States 40 years ago. A pilot, he flies over the park job each month to photograph the progress, which he says is currently about two months behind schedule. The city hoped the new park would be open by early May. July is more likely.
How is the job going?
The job is going a little slow because we are little wet. We’ve had a lot of rain and I just got through digging some foundations for the toilet over there and there is no way you can compact [the soil] right now. They are requiring 95 percent compaction. On a normal house you just dig 12 inches into the ground, no matter what kind of ground it is, pour your concrete and away you go.
Why is it held to a higher standard?
Because Land Image, the architect here, specified that. We are trying to do it, but we can’t achieve it because the soil is too wet. I just want you to know we are going to not be doing a lot of things here shortly if we can’t get together on some of these issues. I’m going to be putting up a tent [over the band shell] this time next week. We’re putting the dome together.
How long have you been in this line of work?
Since 1960. I started out as an apprentice.
You ever had a project like this before?
I normally build buildings. I normally build hospitals, schools, churches, office buildings, whatever.
How does this compare?
It’s about the same. There is always the unknown factor of people [who] don’t know enough, or they say, “Oh we forgot that thing,” or, “We gotta change this.” There is always that. So this is where it comes on my time now. The shadows become longer and the lights light up.
When a project like this is done, are you proud of it?
You gotta be, because you put part of your life into building the damn thing.