Statewide licensing, better-informed customers top Kansas Small Flows member Tim Lubbers’ list of changes that will support our important industry.
Name and title or job description: Tim Lubbers, president – installer, maintainer
Business: Lubbers Excavating, Andale, Kansas
Years in the industry: 31
Association involvement: Member of the Kansas Small Flows Association for 10 years.
Benefits of belonging to the association: The main benefits are the classes they put on for continuing education.
Biggest issue facing your association right now: Membership is probably the biggest thing. They just can’t get people to join. A lot of people think they’re too busy to take a day or two off. And nobody takes the wastewater industry seriously like they should.
Our crew includes: I have one crew member, Max Greep. And my wife, Lynne, does the books.
Typical day on the job: You plan one thing, and then you get three phone calls and everything changes. We install and maintain septic systems, about 30 percent of which are alternative systems. So we generally start out loading equipment and pipe and everything for the day, making sure we have all the parts and pieces on the truck that we’re going to need for that particular job for the day. And making sure you’ve got your DOT inspections and everything’s ready to roll down the road — the lights work, brakes are good, tires are good. But calls might change where you’re headed. It might be an emergency that we have to drop everything and go, or when you go home, you might have to stop by and look at a job, or this or that.
Helping hands - indispensable crew member: My wife, Lynne, who does the books. She makes sure the bills get paid and that people pay their bills. That’s not a big fight anymore, getting people to pay their bills.
The job I’ll never forget: On a job last spring, we had done some preliminary digging to see where the water table was, and it was down about 7 feet. We put a system in and then got a lot of rain and the water table rose to within about 2 feet. It just started coming up out of the ground. I had to convince the customer that there was nothing I could do until it quit raining and the water table went down and everything would be fine. It took about 2 1/2, three months, but finally the water table went down and everything’s working fine now. But I kept running over there, convincing this 87-year-old-woman that it wasn’t sewer water coming up out of the ground. I checked to make sure the tank was sealed and had no leaks, which it didn’t. It was just a matter of waiting out Mother Nature.
My favorite piece of equipment: My mini-excavator (John Deere 50G). It’s a good piece of equipment to get into small yards. There’s been some jobs I’ve done that you just couldn’t get in there and get the job done with a regular tractor/loader backhoe. With this equipment, I’ve been able to bid on more jobs because I can get into yards and get the job done in tighter places.
Most challenging site I’ve worked on: We just finished a job that was in a small yard with a lot of trees. It was a big lateral bed, and there was no place to put the dirt. So, we had to dig half of it and put it in, get it inspected, and then cover that and dig the other half. This was a traditional system — rock and pipe. There wasn’t any place to put the rock. We’d have to bring a couple loads in, use them up, and then have them bring a couple more in because there wasn’t even enough room to stockpile the material.
The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: “Why should I pump my tank? My folks lived there for 30 years and never pumped their tank.”
If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: I’d like to see statewide licensing. Right now, every time you go to a different county or city you’ve got to get licensed there, and everybody’s got different rules and regulations — over here you can do this, but over there you can’t do it. I’d like to see them all go to statewide licensing and following one code.
Best piece of small-business advice I’ve heard: I don’t remember where I heard it, but “work smart, not hard.”
If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: Be farming. I always wanted to farm.
This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: I think some counties are looking ahead as far as the alternatives. I’d like to see them all get out of the Stone Age with gravel-and-pipe and the attitude, “We did it this way for years and it worked.” I think everybody needs to do a little better as far as treating the effluent because I think — and it might not be in my time, but I think it’s going to be in my grandkids’ time — water is going to be in great demand.