Bulloch Brothers surveys Park City
He didn’t know it at the time, but a casual meeting at a pool during high school established the direction of Ted Mason’s life.
"I was at my sister’s condo hanging out at her pool and she said, ‘My husband does this thing called surveying and all you have to do is swing a sledgehammer,’" Mason said.
Now, after 26 years of experience, he is the Park City office manager of Bulloch Brother’s Engineering Inc. He learned that the job included more than just an ability to manipulate a cumbersome tool. He also learned to like the mixture of experiences associated with the work.
"It’s a strange mix of inside and outside work. I’m a people person and I also like to work outside and apply my math skills," Mason said. "I fell into it, then I guess I fell in love with it."
Mason’s surveying career almost took a nose dive in the early 1980s when he was laid off along with many other surveyors in the state. Losing his job, however, propelled him to something greater.
"I poured concrete for a year and that made me want to study and get licensed," Mason said. "It reinforced that I wanted to be more than just a field guy. It was a scary time."
Mason learned firsthand the cyclical nature of the business as it ebbs and flows with the housing market.
"It’s either real busy or slow; chaos or panic," Mason said.
Now as a professional land surveyor, he is licensed in five states and is overseeing the expansion of Bulloch Brothers in Park City. He opened the office in Jeremy Ranch on Dec. 1.
"This is an opportunity for me to get up here," Mason said. "I worked here for 10 straight years. I’m the original surveyor of Ecker Hill and I’ve always tried to get back here to work."
Mason currently resides in Bountiful but is looking for a home in Park City.
"Park City is attractive for me because of past friendships; I’ve been friends of people here for 20 years," he said.
He works year-round, which he says is unique among surveyors here because of the winter elements.
"A lot of surveyors, and I’m friends with many of them, are ski bums and go to Mexico in the winter. Others take off because they don’t want to take on the deep snow," Mason said.
The necessary work of a professional surveyor often goes unnoticed.
Mason helps determine boundary lines and does construction staking. He creates topography maps, which identify the physical features of the land and judges how a building can fit on a slope.
He creates site plans, helps design proposed improvements on lots, identifies property corners and records them with the county. Surveyors also determine flood planes and elevation.
A client will want an architect’s house plan and the architect will send Mason the plan to see if it can fit on the lot.
"I get my satisfaction from homebuyers that see the whole process. Once they get a building permit, I set the house on the lot so the builder has a plan to start," Mason said.
Mason said builders used to determine slope and set a house in a lot on their own. That, however, doesn’t happen anymore.
"Government agencies are being more stringent and surveyors have to get more involved," Mason said. "That’s good for us."
Mason particularly takes pride in setting a house so the homeowner has the best views possible from inside.
"People here want to be able to see the ski resorts," Mason said.
The recent home designs have become more of a challenge for surveyors.
"I’ve been doing this forever and houses are becoming so intricate," Mason said.
To meet the challenges of modern architecture, surveyors’ tools have also become more complex. In his first job, there were four people on a crew holding and measuring chains.
"It took four men to do what now we can do with one guy," Mason said.
Mason uses Trimble GPS 5700 receivers instead of the old chains. The Global Positioning Service technology utilizes 30 satellites at any given time, which gives him better accuracy with measures, distance and angles.
"One man can do survey work now," Mason said, "but there are limitations to GPS."
Mason said a qualified surveyor should still know how to pull out the chains now and then. Tall buildings and trees may throw off a GPS calculation.
"The vertical element is suspect," Mason said. "I still have to use the old stuff."
Just as prices in the real estate market in Park City have increased, Mason sees his industry getting more expensive as well. He hasn’t changed his fees because of it.
"I brought Valley fees to Park City," he said.
Mason sees a demand for qualified surveyors and engineers across the state. Currently he is looking for a drafter and will bring interns in for the summer.
"Confident, licensed surveyors are hard to find," Mason said.
Surveyors only need an associate degree. Mason says surveyors often work for a time then go back to school to become engineers.
Surveyors are a unique breed, Mason said.
"There’s a lot of training, I have to rely on them and trust them. They are kind of geeky outdoorsman. They have to know the latest technology."
Bulloch Brothers Engineering Inc. is located at 3100 W. Pinebrook Road Suite 1000. For more information, call 655-0956.
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Park City has launched a survey designed to learn about travel habits during a winter that was unlike any other in the skiing era of the community.