The Saratoga Sun -

North Fork keeps it civil

New Saratoga firm specializes in civil engineering


Jon Nelson outside his Bridge Street offices.

North Folk Engineering was founded in March by Jon Nelson, a professional civil engineer with a strong background in construction. He has supervised construction of tunnels, dams, reservoirs, sanitary sewer mains, drainage structures, irrigation facilities, water treatment and distribution systems.

North Fork also includes Paul McCarthy, a longtime Saratoga resident who owned a civil engineering firm in town from 1985 to 2014. He has over 50 years of experience managing civil infrastructure projects for municipalities and private customers.

Kassey Westring rounds out the present staff. She brings nine years of civil engineering experience. Nelson says her design experience, which includes storm sewers, streets and water distribution systems, compliment the expertise of the engineering firm.

Nelson was raised in Illinois, got his degree in Iowa, did internships in the Chicago area and moved to Colorado in 2006.

"My idea was to get some practical experience on the construction side, do that for a handful of years and have a better understanding of how things were done out in the field," Nelson said.

He says in the long term it would be beneficial to have the construction skill set as a design engineer.

Arapahoe Utilities and Infrastructure Inc., a Colorado-based company Nelson was working for at the time, sent him to Saratoga in 2008 to work on a waterline and well field project as project manager.

In 2009 the same company was awarded the Encampment sewer and water replacement project.

Nelson lived in Saratoga during this time and started getting involved in community events like the chariot races and woodchoppers. Nelson says he felt at home and when the projects were over he found himself coming back to Saratoga to escape the pressures of big city life.

"It became my surrogate hometown," Nelson said. "I knew about five years ago this was the place I wanted to live and make my home. I really struggled in Denver to find a sense of place and community like I had here in Saratoga."

Last summer Nelson told his former employer in Denver–American West Construction–he was making a change and starting a consulting firm in Saratoga. The company was sorry to lose him, but fully supported his decision, Nelson said.

Nelson came up with the name North Fork after a hike to Green Mountain Falls, which follows the north fork of the Encampment River.

"It was just a great day and something just clicked. Water engineering is one of our focuses and the name just fit," Nelson says.

North Fork's cornerstone focus of business is water and waste water distribution, collection and collection treatment. Other areas of business are utility rehabilitation, trenchless rehabilitation and trenchless technology.

"Trenchless means that you are doing work on the pipe without digging it up. Some examples of that are slip lining-cured in place pipe and the pipe bursting-relatively new alternatives to digging up and replacing pipes," says Nelson.

"It minimizes the impact to streets and can usually be done on a quicker time line and provide cost savings to state agencies, municipalities or whoever the owner might be," he said.

Nelson says trenchless technology is still evolving and not widely used at this time in Wyoming, but he believes it is a matter of time before it takes off. He says Colorado Department of Transportation and municipalities around Denver have been aggressively using trenchless technology for many years.

"What this technology means to roads, is not having to dig up a corroding pipe under a highway, which means no repaving and no closure of a road to traffic," Nelson explained.

Nelson acknowledges the environment of state budget cuts makes water projects more competitive between civil engineers, but knowing new technologies helps.

"I think when funding starts getting tight, that can provide opportunity with these new technologies because they can save money and time," said Nelson.

But he believes his strong construction background is what distinguishes North Fork.

"I want to leverage that background and couple it with our civil engineering expertise to provide pragmatic and cost effective solutions to the clients that we serve," Nelson said.

"I have never seen a perfect set of plans and I have never seen a contractor not make a mistake, there are unforeseen conditions we come across and unintended things that happen. What's important to the success of a project is how you address them. That is what a construction background teaches you."

Nelson said it is essential to be able to communicate with representatives of towns, whether it is a council or the public works director. It is important to listen to the operators who are going to be facing the water systems day after day. All the inputs are important when working on a project.

Design build is another difference Nelson likes to offer. Most projects are design, bid, build, but design build is more of a partnership between the designer and the contractor and he says what you end up with in that process is a shorter delivery.

"So rather than taking two to three years, it could be done in a season," Nelson said. "Hopefully during that season you are coming up with all sorts of cost savings because as you are working together, you are value engineering.

It's much more hands on and you can adjust to problems that arise, which can't be foreseen until you are into the project."

Nelson is excited about the team he assembled.

McCarthy's years of experience in Wyoming will help navigate the grants, loan applications, permits and budgets makes the team solid Nelson says.

"We have to be able to assist a municipality in getting possible funding when problems to systems occur. It is part of the job and Paul is knowledgeable with all his background in working with the towns in Wyoming that he has," Nelson said. "He has more experience than anybody."

Westring, a University of Wyoming engineering graduate, worked for an engineering firm in Saratoga from 2001 to 2009 and did a variety of jobs. She was the first person Nelson met when he came to Saratoga.

She left the workforce to concentrate on her family, but she is back in the workforce now. Nelson feels lucky to have her on board.

"I am looking for people to compliment each others skill sets," Nelson said.

Nelson says North Fork's philosophy is successful projects are the result of owners, engineers, operators and contractors working together and collaborating to achieve a common goal.


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