December 2019 Vol. 74 No. 12

Rehab Technology

NASSCO Standard Bearers: Ray Bahr III

NASSCO, now in its 45th year, continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. A vast array of individuals has contributed to the success of the association, both in the past and present, that has driven NASSCO’s industry mission. This series of articles recognizes those who have not only been critical to the success of NASSCO, but the industry as well.

This month, industry veteran Ray Bahr III is profiled. He is the third generation to work within the underground rehabilitation market.

I grew up in Cheshire, Conn., with the Bahr family legacy in underground infrastructure maintenance and repair – which is a long one. My father, Ray Bahr Jr., got his start from my grandfather, Ray F. Bahr, who owned a company that sold bucket machines and plumbing equipment.

In 1955, one of the worst floods in Connecticut’s history hit, created by two back-to-back hurricanes that saturated the land and several river valleys. Eighty-seven people died during the flooding and property damage was estimated at more than $200 million, or roughly $1.9 billion based on the value of today’s dollar. The floods prompted changes in safety measures, river monitoring and zoning laws. My father saw the need to support our communities in the aftermath and started his own pipe cleaning business, New England Pipe Company, which was a charter founding member of NASSCO.

I followed in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and at just 12-years old started working on Saturdays cleaning out trucks and other small jobs around the shop. When I turned 16 and was old enough to go out into the field, I joined a cleaning crew running bucket machines, cleaning pipes, operating a hand winch for TV inspection, grouting and performed manhole rehab. I worked from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., five days a week during summer breaks from high school and well into my college career at the University of Connecticut.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1979, I briefly worked for a couple of consulting companies, Loureiro Engineering and Flaherty Giavara Engineering. Knowing that my goal was to return to the family business, I came back to the New England Pipe Cleaning Co. wanting to be a larger part of my family legacy. With my years of field experience and a professional degree under my belt, I was ready to make a real difference. I learned everything I could about our industry and became involved with NASSCO.

Back in those days, NASSCO conferences were held every other year at a ski destination such as Lake Tahoe, Park City or Winter Park. As an avid skier, I remember my excitement when I was invited to attend a NASSCO meeting at one of these great destinations. I hold special memories of the 1984 conference in Winter Park, because the Winter Olympics were happening at the same time.

Growing up

The industry was still in its infancy back in the mid-1990s and NASSCO was struggling to gain a real foothold in the industry. I remember only 15 to 20 people attended the annual conference in Park City, UT. At that time, Bill Thompson agreed to serve as president for a second time if my father would agree to follow him in that role the next year to ensure the continuation of NASSCO. As the industry grew, membership also grew, both nationally as well as in Canada.

The family business was sold in the early 1990s and I was getting restless and wanted to expand into other trenchless technologies. In 1995 I went to work for Avanti International as a regional sales manager. Selling grout came easy to me since as a young person I had field experience and also ran a grout truck. I understood how contractors think and what they need. After five years selling grout, I got a call from Allen Thomas, NASSCO’s former executive director and a business associate I had met through a long relationship with CUES. At that time, he was with Re-Pipe and was putting together a conglomeration of companies and asked me to join his team. I met Tim Vivian, the current NASSCO past president, and worked for his division of Re-Pipe, Pipeline Products, from 2000-2004. The timing was great because my children were getting older and this job allowed me to spend more time at home during those early teen years. Unfortunately, after only a couple of years, the parent company shut down their Northeast operations. I moved on to a sales position for Godwin Pumps. This led to a 14-year career in the pump industry, which expanded my knowledge in collection systems and beyond pipes even more. It also allowed me to utilize my engineering degree at a much higher level.

Over the years NASSCO has been an important part of my ongoing education, networking and professional growth. I had the opportunity to sit on the board of directors from 1988 to 1992 and have been very involved in many of NASSCO’s committees. Since my first introduction to NASSCO in the early 1980s I have witnessed first-hand significant growth and its impact. For example, in the very early years, NASSCO membership consisted almost exclusively of contractors. Over time, however, the importance of bringing together others aligned to our industry, including professional engineers, municipalities, system owners and suppliers of equipment and materials, has broadened the knowledge base and given NASSCO a much stronger voice to become the source for industry education, technical resources and advocacy. While NASSCO remains, at its core, a contractor organization, it now boasts that nearly 25 percent of its membership comes from the municipal/public agency sector.

The impact NASSCO has made on our industry – most notably the acceptance and use of PACP – has changed the way we do business and has worked to make our collection systems much more efficient, from the consistent coding of conditions and defects to providing system owners with data to make intelligent asset management decisions. As a lifelong learner, I recently became PACP-certified myself.

Today, I work for American Chemical Grout Co. and as long as I continue to have fun with what I do, I see no real end in sight. My involvement with NASSCO is not slowing down, either. NASSCO’s Grouting Committee has many great opportunities to educate our industry on the benefits of infiltration control using grout. I am grateful to be part of NASSCO’s mission to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure and to assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies.

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