Builders Nail Down Tools Construction Sites Being Hit for Equipment and Materials
Cole, Bill, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Bill Cole Daily Herald Staff Writer
Don Tonyan remembers that time he left the circular saw plugged in by the front door of Northern Illinois Medical Center.
The project manager for Wm. Tonyan & Sons was working a mere 100 yards away in the parking lot, putting in some boards that were being used to form new curbing at the McHenry job site.
"We weren't gone five minutes, and when we went back to get the saw, it was gone," he said. "Just somebody who wanted a saw, I guess."
The $150 circular was barely out of sight. Imagine the temptation when construction equipment is left unattended.
Contractors like Tonyan don't have to. They know what happens. It disappears.
Hundreds of dollars worth of scaffolding, $30,000 Bobcats, $1,000 concrete saws and generators, piles of lumber - even dirt - all vanish into the night if it's not nailed down, chained up, hoisted into the air or boxed in.
"It seems like there's more and more of it (theft) all the time. There's not a day that goes by that you are not taking precautions," said Tonyan, whose McHenry-based company has had two Bobcat-like Case Uni-Loaders stolen in the past 10 years.
Not only does a contractor lose an often valuable piece of equipment with a theft, paid workers then have nothing to do at a job site.
That means higher insurance premiums, the need to sometimes hire security guards, and ultimately, higher overall project costs.
Statistics are hard to come by, but Spence Miller, a partner in Chicago-based Schwartz Brothers Insurance Agency, which insures contractors, said deductibles of $500 to $1,000 five years ago "are now $1,000 to $2,500 at least, and then some."
"It used to be that the (equipment) gang box at the job site was stolen," Miller said. "Now, it's, 'My heavy piece of equipment is being taken.' "
The economics and motivation are simple. A $20,000 to $30,000 Uni-Loader is simple to steal and easy to sell, contractors say.
"Those things certainly went on before. But it's more prevalent now," said Ron Ahlman, executive director of the Fox Valley General Contractors Association, based in Geneva. "The cost of that equipment is a lot more than 10 years ago."
Cottage industries are springing up in the door-to-door sale of barely used construction equipment.
"I get people who stop by here who want to sell a (used) blade or pump, and I tell 'em, get out of here," Tonyan said. …