Always conscious of the bottom line, General Manager Kelly Hale and Public Services Director Ken Unger are in agreement on many subjects, and one most important issue is their proclivity to execute all projects in the most economically feasible way possible. This has led Unger to find innovative methods for the Public Services Department to get more work done for less money.

Unger has implemented a very important concept to “get her done” in the most frugal way possible: the self-execution of projects. Some projects and planned projects are being accomplished or will be, using in-house talent for a fraction of what they would cost using contractors. This has transpired by carefully watching the budget. When there is a little extra money because of sound project management, Unger has used the “found” money to obtain necessary tools and equipment so we can self-perform many of the projects that, in the past, we have paid outside contractors to complete.

Acquisition of trench box results in cost savings

One good example of this is that Unger previously purchased a trench box, which allows repairs of deep breaks in sewer lines.  A trench box provides stability to a trench and keeps the utility workers safe while they carry out their duties. 

In April ’23, Joe and I were walking on one of the many lovely Village trails when we stumbled across an HSVPOA Public Services crew repairing a deep sewer line. Although I initially did not understand exactly what I saw happening, the crew was using a piece of equipment called a trench box.

Later Mr. Unger explained that the trench box was newly purchased for $16,000. Hiring a contractor to make the deep repair would have cost the Members $21,000. Instead, we could make the repair ourselves by purchasing this trench box. Previously, repairing lines deeper than four or five feet deep was impossible, but now the crews can repair sewer and water line breaks and perform installations up to ten or eleven feet deep.

HSVPOA moves toward self-execution of projects 1
HSVPOA crews using newly-acquired trench box

Caterpillar excavator proudly showcased at Board meeting

Another instance of acquiring equipment for project self-execution was announced at the Board meeting on February 21, 2024. Unger shared a photo with the crowd of a recently purchased 2018 316F 10T Caterpillar Excavator from Riggs Caterpillar in the amount of $144,500, tax included. The Board approved this purchase in an email vote on January 19, 2024.

“We’re working towards purchasing equipment so that the POA can self-perform some tasks previously bid out in the past, and this will quickly add up in large cost savings.”

Ken Unger, Hot Springs Village POA Public Services Director

Unger said the excavator purchase was tied into the proposed sewer project plans. He explained that Public Services crews are very proficient at repairing and installing lines on a smaller scale. “What we are trying to do is put ourselves in a position where we can self-perform some of the large projects, and that is one of the reasons why this consolidation [of the sewer plants] makes sense because we can’t upgrade the plants. We don’t have the capability to do that. But we do have the ability to lay pipe.”

The new excavator can also be used for culvert repairs, saving tens of thousands of dollars for POA Members. Unger said he is forming a team right now “by virtue of doing smaller projects. We are going to do some water mains.” Unger plans to self-execute the new proposed 7.6-mile-long sewer force main work. If bid out to a contractor, the installation of this new force main is estimated to cost around $8 M. Self-execution will save us millions of dollars, stated Unger.

“Self-performance of certain jobs will help reduce the overall costs dramatically, and we can control our own destiny. We can do it with our resources by saving time that we are recovering from some of these main water projects that we are investing in right now.”

Ken Unger, Hot Springs Village POA Public Services Director

Chris Boutzale, Superintendent of Water and Wastewater and 42-year employee, said this new equipment is the largest piece of equipment the Village has ever owned.

The excavator was immediately put to use

The feature photo is from the delivery of the equipment to a job site where the POA was working on a culvert replacement. The equipment they were using had to go to the shop. The delivery company dropped the new equipment off, and the crews put it to work immediately. Talk about luck! Unger said, “It is already saving us money on the project they are using it on right now.”

Board Director Larry Siener said we would probably break even on the purchase of the new equipment at around the fifth or sixth culvert repair.

General Manager Kelly Hale said that historically, any sewer or water line project over a certain depth had to be outsourced at a cost ten times higher than in-house execution. “We have done that for decades now,” stated Hale.

Unger said that it is all part of a larger plan that we are putting in place and the excavator will allow us to affect that.

“We are also fortunate to have some very skilled people working for us. My goal is to put them to work building new things, as opposed to playing whack-a-mole with the problems that we’ve dealt with for decades here.”

Ken Unger, Hot Springs Village POA Public Services Director

Featured image: Recently acquired Caterpillar Excavator being delivered in HSV.

EDITED on 2-26-24: We purchased a 12-yard dump truck last year and a compatible trailer this year.  Additionally, a skid steer was recently purchased for Parks and Recreation. The skid steer that Parks and Recreation previously used will now be put to good use in Public Services for line maintenance to do installation cleanup.

We also purchased a new tractor for mowing with a saw attachment to cut high limbs as well a brush attachment to sweep roads. We will save tens of thousands of dollars a year self-performing all mowing. (See two images below.)


By Cheryl Dowden


Ken Unger
Director Public Services
Hot Springs Village

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