HallMark : Winter 2015

Hallmark : Winter Edition 2015

Throwing Delmar for a Loop

The Delmar Loop Trolley is a new 2.2. mile long and $51 million trolley system, serving the Delmar area in St. Louis, near Washington University and Forest Park.

Musselman & Hall Contractors has a $7.6 million subcontract to construct the railroad track portion of the project for general contractor KCI Construction Co. of St. Louis.

The project is being developed by the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District which is funded by a partnership between the city of St. Louis and University City.

Specifications call for the use of new 115lb domestic rail, furnished by A&K Railroad Materials – out of their Kansas City, KS, office. A&K is pre-bending the curved rail for the project. Nortack Systems is fabricating the material for the eight turnouts.

When asked about unique challenges to the job, Dan Poelker, M&H project manager remarked, “By far the most difficult task is fitting the insulated rubber boots around the rail. These boots come in 600 ft. rolls and weight about 3000 pounds. We built a special rig that allows us to pick up a section of rail (up to 300 ft) long and slide the boot around the rail before setting it in place.”

The insulated boots protect the public from the high voltage electricity needed to power the electric cars on the system. They are manufactured by Ohio-based Iron Horse Engineering Co. Iron Horse also furnished the 80 inch long composite ties, which are placed on ten-foot centers. According to Dan, “We wrap the seals around the rail and then fasten the rail to the ties. The ties have adjustment bolts that we use to set the top rail to the exact elevation. Once the rails are set, KCI crews come in and install the concrete. It is a pretty slick operation.”

In mid-December, when most of the construction was suspended to accommodate Christmas shoppers, the rail installation was 58% complete. The entire project is scheduled for completion near the end of 2016.

In an article in the St. Louis Business Journal, Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill and Board Chairman of the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District wrote, “On the other side of our state, they recently completed 2.2 mile Kansas City Streetcar at a cost of $102 million. Our cost is just $51 million for the same distance. Most important is the value the Loop Trolley will bring to the St. Louis region in the form of clean electric transportation, connectivity, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, increased tourism and economic development along the entire route.”

As he reminisced about his time on the project, Dan Poelker mused, “This job has been a real challenge. We are working right in the middle of very busy traffic and we are on a tight schedule. Adam Vogt (M&H general foreman) and the rest of our team have done a great job adapting to an ever changing job environment. I can’t wait to be the first rider.”

As we sit around our office on a cold, gray, dark winter morning, Musselman & Hall project managers and estimators are always happy to reflect on the Six Phases of a Project:




Search for the guilty.

Punishment of the innocent

Praise and honors for the non-participants.

We do not know who claims authorship for this. However, we are pretty sure it dates back to the building of the pyramids.

All Bottled Up on Troost

The area around Troost Avenue and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, in midtown Kansas City, had become an eyesore for the people living in this once proud neighborhood. The area featured shuttered storefront, abandoned buildings, vagrants and trash everywhere. It was not a pretty sight.

But not anymore!

Thanks to an initiative of the City of Kansas City, nearby Stowers Institute and the Brush Creek Community Partners – the area has come alive and is thriving. Barbeque entrepreneur Ollie Gates has been a key figure in the redevelopment. Through his commitment, he demolished all the old buildings on the southeast corner and built a new and vibrant shopping center. Gates maintains their busy barbeque restaurant on the eastside of the development and Gate’s RibTech is nearby at Cleaver II and The Paseo.

After a series of devastating floods, the City of Kansas City removed the old unsightly bridge over Brush Creek and built a beautiful new span – with pedestrian trails linking the eastern reach of Brush Creek to the Nelson-Atkins Country Club Plaza area.

The final stage of the redevelopment was dealing with the large (and not so beautiful) Kansas City Power & Light substation at 48th and Tracy. Two years ago, KCP&L made major improvements to the appearance of the substation when they upgraded it. It also now includes the SmartGrid Innovation Park bringing dependable and efficient electrical power to the surrounding area. Musselman & Hall installed a beautiful architectural concrete landscape as part of the outstanding improvement.

KCP&L, however, was not finished. In Spring 2015, KCP&L contracted with M&H to build a beautiful precast, architectural concrete screen-wall around the entire substation.

The 1120 ft. long wall varies in height from 9 ft 3 inches to 13 ft 6 inches. Unfortunately, the substation was built atop an old dump and the subsoil is very unstable. To offset the instability, the plans called for the construction of a massive spread footing – six feet wide and two feet thick. The footing alone took more than 500 cubic yards of concrete.

According the M&H project manager Greg Frazier, “Since the screen-walls were built on a former dump site, we unearthed thousands of old bottles. Our workers would collect the bottles and explore the internet to see what they might be worth. One Coca Cola bottle was selling online for $150.00. One of our equipment operators uncovered a candy-apple-red, chewing gum machine. The machine showed a price of five cents per piece.”

M&H superintendent Tom Whitten supervised the crew, assisted by number two man – Cody Worsley and crew members Troy Schaub & Ryan Martinko. KCP&L crews were part of the team as well, ready to de-energize the electrical lines as necessary.

One of Musselman & Hall’s newest estimators/project managers is Keith Short.

At age 31, he was one of the oldest members of the graduating class from UMKC, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree in May of 2015. Keith is not a slow learner. He served our nation via the United States Navy for five years. After completing his Navy basic training, he spent three and one half years aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan touring the Western Pacific and achieving the rank of Petty Officer Second Class. As an Avionics Electronics Technician, he worked on electronic counter measures and secured communications systems for F-18 fighter planes. Keith’s Navy tour took him to thirteen countries including Singapore, Hong Kong (5 times), United Arab Emirates (Dubai) (4 times), Guam, Japan, and Thailand.

In 2006, Keith attended the funeral of a friend in Wichita, KS, where he bumped into another high school friend, named Keighsy (KC) – whom he had desired to date in high school back in Liberty, MO. That encounter signaled the end of  Keith’s Navy career – all he could think about was Keighsy. They married in 2008. After their wedding, she lived in Liberty and worked at the Military Entrance Processing Station near KCI and he finished his Naval career in 2010.

Today the Shorts are proud parents of Kelvin Levi Short who was born in February of 2015. They reside in Kearney, MO, where Keith likes to hunt and fish on the family farm near Bethany, MO. A self-described “square” Keith says he likes to hang out with family and play with Kelvin.

Keith joined M&H as an intern in March 2014 and began full time employment in May 2015.

When asked about his decision to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering rather than construction, Keith remarked, “My engineering degree fits me perfectly at Musselman & Hall. Even though, I am not in the business of designing things, my engineering degree helps me speak the language of construction and I understand our projects from a technical standpoint.”

Keith commented on his job at M&H, “I am constantly surprised by the large size of the Kansas City construction market. There is really a lot going on here. The flip side of that is that, even though the market is quite large, I am amazing at how many small and tightly connected is the construction community.”

He is an important part of the M&H team that is helping construct the new Burns & McDonnell headquarters building at Bannister and Wornall. He proclaimed, “I love the Burns and Mc job. WE have been out there more than a year and it has been fun to see the beautiful building taking shape. WE have had floor pours up to 19,000 square feet in one day. It is super amazing to see our experienced crews, material providers and everything come together for a pour that size.”

Keith is a big KC Royals fan and was thrilled with the Royals World Series run. When asked about his love for sports he exclaimed, “I cheer for the Royals but, with my step=father hailing from Michigan, I was raised a Michigan fan. I love the Wolverines, the Lions, the Red Wings, and the Tigers. It is really hard on me when the Royals play the Tigers.”

When asked about how he fits in at M&H Keith responded, “This family at M&H is wonderful. I can handle anything that goes on here with the support of the senior employees. From the executives to the field personnel everyone at M&H has so much experience to learn from.”

Shooting Hoops and Rolling Dice

On the night of November 14, 2015, more than 100 Musselman & Hall employees and their guests descended on the college Basketball Experience for our annual employee appreciation night.

After an intense competition of free throw shooting, three point shooting, vertical jumping, horse and knockout; the group sat down for a delicious buffet dinner and program.

The following employees were recognized for their service to the company:

Rookie of the Year: Matt Watterson

Five years: Jeremy Newland and Larry Eilenstine

Ten years: Jason Casey, Brandon Hyden and Cody Worsley.

Fifteen years: Clint Hager and Derek Ephland.

Twenty Years: Dexter Phillips.

Thirty Years: Mike Barnes.

A few weeks later on December 11, another 100 plus employees gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Louis for the eastern Missouri version of the event. As the St. Louis operation is less than five years old, no longevity awards were given. However, the group enjoyed a fun casino night.


On the evening of November 23, my family and I gathered at our home to celebrate the 100th birthday of my father, Harry L. Hall.

Dad was born November 23, 1915 in Elephant Butte, New Mexico. My grandfather Harry F. Hall lived there while working on the construction of the Elephant Butte dam. Elephant Butte is in southeast New Mexico near Truth or Consequences.

The Halls were not wealthy people. My grandfather, one of four boys, was the son of a stonemason from Sedalia, Missouri. Grandpa was not formally educated, but the entire Hall family was grounded in the construction business. My great-grandfather, Nicholas Halthausen, was a stonemason. When my sister was attending college in Enid, Oklahoma in 1961, Dad drove us by the little shanty where they had lived in Oil Hill, KS, near Eldorado during the 1920’s. Grandpa had worked at the refinery there. Shanty is the right word-there was no hint of luxury.

In the mid 1920’s, my grandmother, Trixie Hall, died and left my grandfather with my father, his younger sister Dale and his older brother Raymond. It was also in the mid 1920’s that my great uncle, John N. Hall, contracted tuberculosis and moved to Arizona. Uncle John convinced Grandpa to relocate to Kansas City and take over his interest in Musselman & Hall Contractors.

Records show that Musselman & Hall thrived during the Roaring Twenties. Business in Kansas City was going well and Grandpa moved the family into the house I knew at 4008 St. John in northeast Kansas City. By then, Grandpa had found help raising his three children when he hired a housekeeper by the name of Dorothy, whom he later married. She was always, “Aunt Dorothy” and never Grandma.

As the stock market crashed and the depression hit, somehow the Harry Hall family survived. AS Uncle Ray went off to college to earn a medical degree and dad shuffled off to the University of Kansas to earn a Civil Engineering degree in 1939.

Dad married my mother two times. The first time they married secretly while dad was at KU and mom was in highschool. Thanks to my mother’s sister, Beulah, the secret was disclosed and my grandfather had the marriage annulled. Two years later, as Dad turned 21 and my mom turned 18, they were united again in a wonderful marriage that lasted until Dad died of stomach cancer on January 23, 1978 at the young age of 62.

Dad’s life was marked by three significant events. The first occurred during his youth-as a very good baseball player, he struck on the nose by a bat shattering his nose and leaving him permanently disfigured. He attempted plastic surgery but it was never successful. The broken nose caused Dad to be rated 4F for selective service. When other men went off to World War II, he was left behind to fly airplanes for the Civil Air Patrol. He would have loved being a pilot in the Army Air Corps, but that was not to be.

The second event, of course, was the secret marriage and the scandal that followed. This fiasco left my dad permanently disenchanted with his church and permanently scarred the relationship between my parents and their parents. It was ugly!

Finally, in June of 1954, my parents were attending a 25th Wedding Anniversary party for our next door neighbors in Raytown. During the party Dad, slipped and fell on a wet stairway – jamming the drinking glass he had been holding into his right hand – through the center of his hand, severing all the arteries and tendons. He nearly died from loss of blood. He did survive, but with a severely deformed hand which plagued him for the remainder of his life.

Dad was a complex man, raised without a mother, by the grandfather (who also lost his mother at an early age). He was never quite sure how to love my sister and me. He never hugged me or told me he loved me – he didn’t have to. I could tell it from the way he cared for me. He taught me discipline, honesty, and how to treat and respect women.

It took Dad a long time to accept Judy into our family. He was not good at accepting outsiders.

Not long before he died, he told me there were two women in his life. They became more beautiful as they aged. One was my mother Florence, and the other was my wife Judy. It was the nicest thing he had ever said to me. I think of it every day.

Dad worked at Musselman & Hall as a laborer to an owner from 1930s until he died in 1978. Under his leadership, the company survived the death of my grandpa in 1968 and the death of his partner and cousin, Ed, in 1969. He had the wisdom to lay out a plan to transfer the business to me-allowing the company to last for more than 100 years.

This was the group we refer to as “The Greatest Generation.” My dad was born at the beginning of World War I, raised during The Great Depression, tempered by the second World War (in which he could not serve), crippled by two debilitating injured, survived two airplane crashes and a car wreck-all the while providing a safe and comfortable suburban life for his wife and children. Way to go Dad! Happy Birthday!