Gold Standards

Gold Standards

Well, its October again which means a couple things: The World Series, Octoberfest, Halloween, and most importantly, the start of the Gold Rush season! If you haven’t watched the show before, it’s a reality TV show that follows the day to day activities of small gold mining crews in Alaska. And just like the clients of D.L. Howell & Associates, these miners need to prepare plans and obtain Permits from the local municipal, State and Governmental agencies before they can stick a shovel in the ground. This is very similar to obtaining the necessary environmental permits to do Land Development Projects in Chester County.

Opencast mining quarry with machinery at work. Digging equipment, industrial landscape

Being familiar with the challenges in obtaining permits from agencies, such as the Chester County Conservation District and DEP, to disturb environmentally sensitive areas, such as woodlands, wetlands, streams and associated riparian buffers, I find it amazing that in Alaska, under a mining permit, you can pretty much bulldoze right through as many wetlands and streams as you want. I’m not talking about guys with shovels and gold pans like the 49-ers, I’m talking 100-ton D9 dozers that wipe the stream bed completely off the map to dig down to “pay-dirt”. Now it is Alaska, and very remote, so there probably isn’t too many homeowners calling the DEP or local Municipality to complain about muddy waters downstream. If a stream gets muddy in the wilderness and no one is around to see it does it make a noise?? I’m sure the proper cofferdams, dirtbags sediment traps are in place and just not shown on TV. It’s also hard to believe these guys can blow through 50 acres of wetlands and streams and our clients need to give up their first born and a pint of blood to cross a stream or disturb 2,000 SF of wetlands?!

The truth of the matter is that mining activities, even in the remote parts of Alaska, are highly regulated and contain frequent inspections. Our buddies at EMCOR (formerly URS) oversee the miners, making sure these guys do what they are supposed to in accordance with all the applicable regulations. And although you don’t see this part of the process on the show, these miners are responsible for escrowing monies for reclamation of the land when they are finished. It may seem like all they do is dig up and sluice tens of thousands of cubic yards of dirt all summer long and then roll out of town but when they are finished mining they are required to remediate the land they disturbed. This includes grading and the replanting of trees & grasses to ensure that the native ecosystem returns to normalcy after they are gone.

Email 101- But You Were Cc’d

Email 101- But You Were Cc’d

It has been estimated the average number of emails people receive is typically two to three times what they send.  So if you send 50 emails a day, you probably receive 100 to 150 in your inbox.  In other words, email breeds. And where does this happen? The Cc: (carbon copy) field.

Chances are you Cc: people in an email from time to time. It is also possible that you Cc: half your company in just about every email that you send. There are different reasons for Cc:, some are prudent and effective, others are annoying and time consuming to the recipient.  So the question becomes…When is it appropriate to use the Cc:?

That is a discretionary call that some are unable to properly make, specifically when the “CYA” mentality comes into play.  Cc: should not be used as a way to “CYA” or “FYI” everyone simply because you want to FYI.  Unless they are specifically involved in that particular conversation, event, or issue, and it is important they be informed, DO NOT Cc: them.  Remember that your purpose in including others on the Cc: line is to inform individuals who must or should have the information you are sending. These individuals do not need to DO anything in response to the email. They only need to know about it.

The Cc: always communicates something to the recipient, therefore should be used cautiously and effectively.   It could convey a message of, “I don’t think you and I are going to be able to do this alone,” even if that was not the intent of the Cc:.  There are various messages sent to the recipient, depending on the type of Cc: utilized.  The “responsibility-minimization Cc:” says “by involving someone else, I am making myself less culpable should whatever we’re emailing about go sour.”  The “defensive Cc:” says to the other party: “By involving this particular person, you are not going to easily get away with what you think you’re getting away with.”

Etiquette on sending email concept- complete with topics of a lecture.

Many people often wonder if I receive an email on which people are copied, should I reply to all?  If you know the other people and you understand why they are included, feel free to cc them. But if you do not know the people or the reason they are included, do not cc them in return. The individual who sent the original message can forward your email if necessary. It is not your job to reply blindly to strangers. The person who initiates the email should say either “Please reply to all” or “Please respond to me only.”

What happens when my supervisor wants to be copied on every email I send to clients. Is this a standard practice? No, it is not a standard practice, and the behavior has several disadvantages: It can suggest to clients that you are a junior employee who must be closely supervised; make clients feel they should address him rather than you; rope him into even the smallest, least important exchanges; and encourage him to micromanage your client interactions.

In summary, the Cc: tool has a tendency to send a much more powerful message than the written text.  Here are a few simple rules to remember before loading up the Cc: field with unnecessary recipients:

  • If you CC someone in the middle of an email thread, that person’s identity and presence must be announced.
  • Never copy someone on an email as an oblique threat.
  • Never copy someone on an email as a way of amassing support.
  • Copy people on a“need to know” basis. 
  • The number of people who “need to know” is always overestimated. 
  • Don’t CC your boss on all emails to show him how good you are.
  • Don’t CC too many people in one email.
  • Make sure the CC recipient understands why he/she is receiving a copy.

With the above in mind, also use discretion by NOT hitting “Reply All” if “all” do not need to be involved in the reply.  It is always more effective to remove recipients that are not necessary to, or interested in, the ongoing conversation.  Courtesy is not clogging others inboxes with irrelevant, petty, or CYA emails that do not apply to them.



Why does the Survey company need a copy of my Title Report?

Why does the Survey company need a copy of my Title Report?

Every proposal for a Boundary related survey that we prepare includes the following scope item:

“Perform a Boundary Survey in accordance with a Title Report (supplied by client) or deeds and plans of record.”

You might think, “I’m only building a pool, why is the survey company asking for a copy of my Title Report?” As you may know, one part of buying real estate is dealing with potential issues created by its previous owners. When it comes to title issues, a Title Insurance Policy is one of the conventional methods for protecting yourself against the problems of the previous owner that might come back and harm you. Lenders often require Title Insurance, and you should receive a copy of the report at settlement.

A Title Report is a document that a title insurer prepares which details ownership and the burdens or benefits recorded against the property, such as liens, encroachments, or easements. If provided, the survey company can review this document and use several portions of the document to aid them in performing the survey.

Click and Drag the SLIDER to see WITH and WITHOUT

Here are the sections we utilize the most:

Schedule A.

  • Provides the buyer and the current owner names – knowing who currently owns the property can aide in the deed research that needs to be performed by the surveying company.
  • Provides the legal description – this is also commonly known as the property description. Typically, a metes and bounds description, a Lot number and Subdivision name are referenced. This is the source of title and is a key component to performing a survey.

Schedule B Section II.

  • Lists the Subdivision Plan – this is another confirmation of the data that can be used to find, identify, and locate the subdivision plan. Frequently, the covenants and restrictions of a subdivision are also listed in this area.
  • Lists the Exceptions to Insurance – if any agreements (such as rights-of-way or easements) had been made between past or present owners of the property and any other entity (such as a neighbor or utility company), and the document was recorded, then it will be listed in this area. Survey related items could then be shown on the survey drawing.

Many Deeds, if not most, do not reference all the easements that burden a property. On the contrary, a Title Report does, and it is this fact that provides the greatest value to the surveyor. While a Title Report isn’t necessary to complete a simple boundary survey, it certainly provides a more complete picture of the property. So, why do we ask for a copy of your Title Report? Simply put, it is to provide you, the client, with the most comprehensive survey product possible.

The Information provided, herein, should not be considered legal advice and all buyers, agents and title companies should consult their attorneys for legal advice.

InterDrone, the future of Drones for Engineering and Surveying

InterDrone, the future of Drones for Engineering and Surveying

In September of this year, I had the pleasure of traveling out to the InterDrone 2018 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada to research and discover the latest in Drone hardware and software technology. My goal was to find out what new drones and software will be coming out soon and how DLHowell and Howell Kline can utilize these technologies to improve our engineering and surveying services.

Keynotes from Daniel K. Elwell

The first keynote of the convention was from Daniel K. Elwell. He is the Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He gave a very inspiring speech on how the FAA is very interested in working with companies and UAS operators to provide safe airspace for manned and Unmanned aircraft. I was very impressed with his keynote and his efforts to forward the Drone airspace and technology for the future.

InterDrone Classes and Presentations

The professionals at InterDrone took the courses to the next level. Some of the presentations I attended went over up and coming FAA regulations for UAS pilots, 3D Mapping using drones for surveying as well as best practices for mission planning.

Drone Hardware Technology

The advancements in drone technology are just incredible. You may have seen the DJI Phantom 4 drone which is a standard in the industry, but the equipment at InterDrone seemed like something from a SciFi TV Show. Some of the latest technology included drones with hybrid fuel systems enabling flight times greater than two hours. Other UAS systems are based on wing designs that could cover large areas, 100+ acres in one flight but were also able to take off and land vertically. There are also security drones that could be deployed to take down rogue drones.

InterDrone 2018 Photos

InterDrone, Final Thoughts

There was a lot of information to collect in only a few short days at InterDrone 2018, but I can certainly say that utilizing unmanned aircraft in the construction, surveying, and civil engineering industries will be a new tool we can all use to improve the industry.