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Mr. Tommy Christened at TXI Bells/Savoy Plant

The 16-inch dredge Mr. Tommy tied up at TXI’s Bells/Savoy aggregate plant in Oklahoma, set to receive visitors at the christening. Photos by John Conrad, Ardmore, Oklahoma.

The 16-inch dredge Mr. Tommy tied up at TXI’s Bells/Savoy aggregate plant in Oklahoma, set to receive visitors at the christening. Photos by John Conrad, Ardmore, Oklahoma.

From left, Edwin Gerick, TXI vice president of Operations for Texas and Oklahoma Aggregates, Gary Allen, General Operations Manager for TXI in Oklahoma and North Texas, Charles Johnson, DSC Director of Sales, and Robby Garrett, Bells/Savoy Plant Manager.

From left, Edwin Gerick, TXI vice president of Operations for Texas and Oklahoma Aggregates, Gary Allen, General Operations Manager for TXI in Oklahoma and North Texas, Charles Johnson, DSC Director of Sales, and Robby Garrett, Bells/Savoy Plant Manager.

From left, Nick, Ben and Julia Wetta, and Regan Canfill prepare to swing the Champagne bottle.

From left, Nick, Ben and Julia Wetta, and Regan Canfill prepare to swing the Champagne bottle.

TXI employees Colby Wadley and Billy Wilson hand out hard hats to dredge visitors.

TXI employees Colby Wadley and Billy Wilson hand out hard hats to dredge visitors.

Karen Murray, left, administrator of the TXI Mill Creek plant, organized the christening event. Here she has a word with Robby Garrett.

Karen Murray, left, administrator of the TXI Mill Creek plant, organized the christening event. Here she has a word with Robby Garrett.

Christening visitors listen to the presentations.

Christening visitors listen to the presentations.

Mel Brekhus praises the engineering of the new dredge.

Mel Brekhus praises the engineering of the new dredge.

On August 1st, TXI christened the 16-inch dredge Mr. Tommy at their Bells/Savoy Aggregate plant in Southern Oklahoma and North Texas. The dredge was named for Thomas (Tommy) J. Wetta III, who died in 2004 after a lifetime spent designing, building and operating dredges. His company, Dredging Supply Company, now run by his two sons Robert and William, designed and built the dredge that bears his name.

The Mr. Tommy was custom-designed for the particular deposit to be mined, and since it began pumping in mid-July, has increased uptime and efficiency. The Bells/Savoy plant, named for two North Texas towns in the area it serves, had been operating previously with a dredge that frequently under-performed in the deposit. Tommy Wetta had visited the operation on several occasions, and suggested retrofits and other ideas for increasing production. Ultimately he suggested replacing the existing machine with a dredge better designed for the deposit.

TXI placed an order with Dredging Supply Company for a 16-inch cutterhead dredge, and the two companies collaborated to design and build a machine that would address the challenges of this deposit.

The result was a heavy-duty catamaran design, the hull fabricated with 1/4-inch steel, hefty cutter ladder and A-frame to survive the impact of the cutter hitting a tree trunk, a monitor that delivers a 200 psi water jet to break up clay ahead of the cutter, and multiple redundant systems that allow the operator to maintain a steady flow of material feeding the processing plant.

A Prospector mine manager software system designed by William Wetta, aided by a Hemisphere Vector-Pro GPS system, was installed on the dredge. The software indicates and records where and how deep the deposit has been mined. Depth transmitters allow the display to identify the dredge’s position and orientation with real-time pond depth information, and allow the dredge to return to a precise position if it must be moved for maintenance or other reasons.

Two weeks after the dredge began operations, plans were made to christen the dredge. Company executives, TXI employees, members from Tommy Wetta’s family, and DSC employees gathered for the event.

Bells/Savoy Plant Manager Robby Garrett welcomed the group, and introduced the TXI executives, including Mel Brekhus, President and CEO; Edwin J. Gerik, Jr., Vice President of Operations for Texas and Oklahoma Aggregates; and Gary D. Allen, General Operations Manager for TXI in Oklahoma and North Texas.

He also introduced members of the Wetta family – William (Billy) Wetta, DSC CEO; Robert Wetta, DSC president; P.J. Wetta; Nodie Wetta, DSC Part Sales Manager; Ben, Nick, and Julia Wetta and Regan Canfill.

Brekhus told the group that he was pleased to recognize a leader in the dredging business and to christen the Mr. Tommy.

“We want to be among the leaders in our business also,” he said. “The engineering that went into this dredge is amazing.”

Edwin J. Gerik, Jr., TXI’s Vice President of Operations for Texas/Oklahoma aggregates, said that the goal of this project was to increase shareholder value by increasing margins.

“We seek to come up with ideas that allow us to run a more efficient operation, increase production and, as a result, lower our costs. What you’ll see today is a collaboration between TXI and DSC” that will help us to accomplish these goals, said Gerik.

Gary Allen gave a short history of the Bells/Savoy operation.

In the early 1990’s, TXI purchased 2400 acres in Southern Oklahoma along with an adjacent 100-acre parcel across the Red River in Texas, 25 miles closer to the primary market.
The Mr. Tommy dredge pumps mined material to a processing plant located on the Oklahoma property, where oversize and debris are removed, and the oversize is crushed and re-introduced into the process. The slurry is then pumped through 16-inch pipelines in 20-inch casings located beneath the river to Texas – a distance of about 1600 feet, using a 1000-horsepower Thomas pump.

The processing plant in Texas produces concrete sand, golf sand and masonry sand. The slurry water is then returned back to Oklahoma to settling ponds. All sales occur at the Texas location.

Charles Johnson, DSC Director of Sales, told the group “Tommy Wetta’s approach to business was basic – to have good values in business throughout the years. His word was his bond, and his philosophy was that if you ever take advantage of someone, it’s not a good deal, because a good deal is good for both companies.”

Robert Wetta, Tommy’s son and DSC’s president, said “In the past few years, DSC has seen some great things happening, especially relating to TXI.

“In the early 50’s, TXI owned a single aggregate plant,” he said. “Now the company is the largest producer of cement in Texas, and has been described by Fortune Magazine as one of America’s most admired companies. DSC is thankful for this day,” he said, noting that his father had received a posthumous lifetime achievement award from the Western Dredging Association earlier in the year.
The crowd then moved to the shore next to the dredge, and Tommy Wetta’s grandchildren Ben, Nick and Julia Wetta, and Regan Canfill, swung the mesh-enclosed bottle of Champagne, breaking it against the hull and formally christening the Mr. Tommy.

Among the visitors were Wilbur Rodriguez, Tommy Wetta’s long-time partner, who still works with DSC, John Bull, Tommy Wetta’s best friend and engineer with DSC, Damon Gonzales, DSC director of Engineering, and Nick Giarratano, DSC Production Manager.

Not able to attend were Tommy’s wife Aline, daughter Julie Bonenfant, and grandchildren Madison, Jackson, Rachel and Michael Bonenfant.

The attendees were invited aboard the dredge and transported to see the processing plant, before adjourning back to the green and white-striped tent for a catered barbecue lunch.

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