KAMSACK - Many area residents know Dereck Wolkowski for his work as a funeral director and owner of Wolkowski Funeral Service Ltd. in Kamsack. Most recently, Wolkowski’s entrepreneurial spirit has emerged once again with the launch of a new business – Express Excavation & Screw Pile.
In a shop located on Kamsack’s Main Street at 445-3 St (the building that previously housed both Johnny’s Super Shell and most recently Shining Amour Auto) Wolkowski reported that the excavation business is off to a strong start. In fact, he has been so flooded with contracts that he’s now hired a small crew to keep up with the growing demand.
Born and raised on the family farm just west of Canora, Wolkowski graduated from the Canora Composite School. Finding a passion for funeral service early in life, he graduated from the Saskatchewan Funeral Service Association Education Program in 1998 while he worked for a funeral home in Kamsack. In 2010, Wolkowski ventured out and opened his own funeral home in town, which would become Kamsack's only locally owned funeral home.
Calling in last week for a phone interview from his current project in Manitoba, Wolkowski explained that his latest business venture wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support of a terrific team at the funeral home. “It all started with a little Kabota excavator,” said Wolkowski. “The funeral home required some regular work – things like digging graves and cemetery maintenance. I had received a number of requests to clean up tree debris after summer storms, and I thought a mulcher would be much more efficient than hauling all the debris away. So last spring, I purchased a D3 dozer with a mulching attachment.”
Wolkowski said it’s a D3 CAT body with a D5 engine to help keep up with the demand of the mulcher. With the purchase of the CAT mulcher the business continued to grow. “I started to get requests from local farmers and ranchers who needed their fence lines cleaned up and different landscaping jobs and government jobs. And then when word got out, the department of highways and local RMs began to ask if I could help clear encroaching trees and blind spots. Things really just snowballed from there.”
Before long, Wolkowski realized that the type of projects that were coming in would require the company to buy more equipment. Soon after that, he added a larger CAT 315 excavator to the fleet. The company is now in a position to help farmers with large-scale needs like ditch work, or digging and clearing dugouts. The business has expanded to offer services in land clearing, grading, brush and tree mulching, general excavation, septic tank installation or repair, building demolition, and screw piles.
For those that don’t know, a screw pile is a large pipe with a special auger flighting welded near the bottom of each pipe. It is typically used during the installation of building foundations, basements, concrete pads, and decks. With the help of computerized machinery, the screw-like lower end is turned into the ground and takes firm hold of compacted materials it gets turned in. An engineer pre-determines the weight rating of each pile, and then Wolkowski uses his specialized machinery to turn them into the ground until reaching the pre-determined weight capacity set out by the engineer. If the weight rating is not reached on any specific pile, an extension is added until the correct weight rating is established for that particular pile. At the end of the project a computer file is generated and Wolkowski emails that document to the engineer or building inspector for their review and approval.
Last year, Express Excavation was contracted by Manitoba Highways and Infrastructure to clear a whopping 45 kilometres of roadside brush. This winter, the company completed work on clearing a large area alongside a runway at an airport in the northern, remote communities of Ilford and Shamattawa Manitoba.
“They are pretty remote locations,” said Wolkowski. “There is no cell phone service up there, so the only way to keep in touch with home is by satellite phone.” Wolkowski explained that the travel involved to service some of these communities is not for the faint of heart. The latest contract takes the team to Shamattawa, Manitoba. The destination can only be reached by helicopter, plane, or winter roads, which means traveling at a rate of 35 kilometres per hour over incredibly rough terrain that resembles bush trails. “Some of the route getting out there involves driving over ice roads,” explained Wolkowski. “At one point, we had to travel across more than two miles of solid ice. So, I asked how thick the ice was, and I was told – about four feet deep. In fact, they explained that for ice road stretches like this, they drill holes at the beginning of the season and flood the ice repeatedly to make it thicker.”
Wolkowski said that although the work can be exhausting, it awakens the farm boy spirit in him. “Work like this really does take me back to those days growing up on the farm,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m still a farm kid at heart.” For more information please call Dereck directly.