Irby Crews in California with IID for 25+ Years

Sep 13, 2019

Irby Construction has worked for Imperial Irrigation District (IID) for over 25 years providing ongoing transmission, distribution, substation and underground electric distribution work in the Imperial, California area.

IID began as a rural power provider in 1936 and has since grown into an innovative consumer-owned resource. It is now the sixth largest electrical utility in California, serving more than 150,000 customers. IID has two core missions – to keep the lights on and the water flowing. Irby is fortunate to have played a role in the growth and success of IID throughout the years. For the past 25+ years, IID has continuously awarded Irby maintenance contracts based in Imperial and Riverside counties. Most recently, this contract was awarded to Irby in July of 2017.

The two companies have developed a robust relationship through the years that continues to strengthen the trust and quality work produced. This unique relationship has served both companies well for several years. The maintenance contracts have given Irby employees stability and IID security —both of which are desirable among the industry; however, relationships are one of many factors when it comes to awarding this 3-year maintenance contract.

Irby Project Safety Manager Mark Karren has worked with IID in California for over 15 years.

 “We’ve been here for years, we know their system, we’ve got a great safety record with them, and we don’t have to bring other sources form somewhere else—we’re here,” Karren said.

It is no secret that safety is of utmost importance across the board in our industry. Irby has maintained a stellar safety record throughout the years for IID. Tailboard meetings are held each morning before the crews start work and an additional safety meeting is held every Tuesday morning. The meetings serve as an opportunity for the crews to communicate and express any safety issues or positive occurrences that may have previously transpired.

Travis Wollan has worked for Irby for 15 years starting as a Lineman, to his current position as Superintendent, over the California Region. Wollan is always present at weekly safety meetings and stresses the importance of communication.

“I’m a believer in sharing our mistakes. That way not only you can learn from it, but everyone can,” Wollan said. “Safety is a constant battle. It’s human nature to get in that groove and become complacent. We have to continually remind the crews of that.”

Isidro Rodriguez is a Journeyman Lineman who has worked for Irby in California for 13 years on IID projects.

“If someone forgets a hard hat, a harness, anything we may need, we remind each other,” Rodriguez said. “We have good communication out here. You have to have good communication, because if you don’t, it’s not good.”

Calvin Jones is an Apprentice Lineman who will attend Northwest Lineman School this September at the Texas location.

“We have a pretty good safety record out here,” Jones said. “I think that IID respects that we have been able to do good work for them, and the way that Travis makes safety a priority definitely places us at an advantage. He’s pretty adamant that the steps should be safety, then quality, then production.”

Due to the longevity and continuity of the IID maintenance contracts, most of the Irby employees in California have worked together for 15+ years. This has created a tight-knit atmosphere among the crews, which has proven to be beneficial for all involved. That stability instills a different level of trust among the crews because they came up together and know each other.

Crews who have worked together this long is particularly beneficial for the incoming linemen. This creates an opportunity for new linemen to work with more experienced crews because they have been with both IID and Irby for a respectable number of years.

Adrian Garzon joined the Irby California crews in August of 2018 and has enjoyed the work so far.

“We have a really great group of guys out here,” Garzon said. “We can joke around, but we stay on our toes and stay focused. We are really good with each other, and it keeps our morale up. We are all so close because it’s an actual brotherhood out here.”

The maintenance contracts have given the Irby crews an opportunity to have a permanent home where they work, which is also unusual within the construction industry.

“It’s a luxury to have what we have and to be about to do this work and to go home and have our families here and not have to be traveling, Jones said. “Most people just want stability and security.”

Along with profound skills and training, safety, brotherhood and stability, retention is another benefit that Irby crews have experienced throughout the years in California.

“It’s an established relationship with somebody, it’s constant work, and you’re keeping people in certain areas for a long time, so you don’t have people stray,” Karren said. “Irby as a whole benefits from that.”

Irby has a long history of performing safely and efficiently regardless of the rough terrain, tight schedules or complexity of the job. Each man on the crew plays a part in helping the project come together safely and smoothly. As Irby’s reputation continues to strengthen and relationships grow, the California crews remain grateful for the unique opportunity they have attained for so many years.

Irby considers their relationship with IID to be a vital part of day to day business. With Irby’s many years in Imperial and Riverside Counties, they have hired and trained local personnel, giving support to the local economy. They also continue to support local charities and groups in support of Irby employees and the community. Irby’s commitment to both IID and the community has strengthened them as a company and they hope to continue their dedication to both over the coming years.

“There’s so much history here that Irby has done and built, and we are just continuing it.” Wollan said. “There’s no magic, it’s just good relationships. At the end of the day, the history is there. We’ve proved ourselves. It’s hard to ignore that.”