PRCC students bringing down the house

Published 7:19 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A house on Airport Road in Picayune was torn down by Pearl River Community College students by students in the Pearl River Community College’s Heavy Equipment Program, which provided them with valuable experience as they tore it down.

The house was structurally unsound and would have not been cost effective to repair, said Harvey Miller, president of the school board for the Picayune Municipal Separate School District. The house being torn down was located on 16th section land, which is land set aside for school district’s to use to help support the districts

“Otherwise you would have just had to start from scratch,” Miller said.

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The 16th section land on which the house sat now can be used to make money for the school district, Miller said. He said the school district could apply to rezone the land for possible commercial use.

Using the Pearl River Community College Heavy Equipment program to tear down that house and two others also located on 16th section land, saved the school district between $7,000 and $10,000, Miller said. Otherwise the school district would have had to bid out the demolition, and the lowest bids were coming in at about $3,000 per house. About three houses were torn down Tuesday by the students, he said.

“So that buys a lot of text books and computers and so on and so forth,” Miller said.

Brad Ladner, the heavy equipment instructor, said the 12-week program is free through a federally funded Pathways grant to residents of Pearl River County who lived in Mississippi or Louisiana during Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.

Classes are held Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For two hours each day, each student gets hands on time with the equipment. When they are not working off campus, there are many projects for them to do on campus.

“It’s basically just like a job,” Ladner said.

Usually there are about 12 students to a class.

“You get too much bigger and it takes away from their time on the equipment,” Ladner said.

Any non-profit organization can benefit from their services, he said. More projects for non-profit organizations include building new fields for the Poplarville Athletic Association and a firing range for the Poplarville Police Department.

The program also is benefiting from donations such as $100,000 in cash from Huey Stockstill; $550,000 in equipment from the Caterpillar Company; Puckett Equipment will donate some equipment, and Stribling Equipment plans to donate $700,000 in equipment.

A Commercial Driver’s License class for those who want to become truck drivers also is offered at the college in which students can take advantage of the same grant, said CDL instructor Donnie Odom. Odom said his classes meet 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Four of Odom’s students brought the heavy machinery on a truck and trailer to the site where the house was to be torn down.

His class can take anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks, depending on the student and how much prior experience a student has had with truck driving, Odom said.

While the heavy machinery program does not have job placement, the CDL class does, although Ladner said two of his students who completed the heavy equipment course had jobs as of yesterday.

“It’s not hard for truck driver students to find a job,” Odom said.

Both classes help the students get jobs by providing them with what they need in the form of hands-on experience. Ladner said most employers are looking for experience, and the only way to get that is to let the students operate the machines. PRCC’s heavy equipment training will earn those students an National Center for Construction Education and Research certification that will get them a job any where in the nation, Ladner said.

After the Pathways grant ends, there are still ways to find students financial aid, Odom said.

“You’re looking to better yourself, you know,” Ladner said.