Frank Brey has been at the center of all the city's water and wastewater upgrades of the last six years.
During the week, Frank Brey can often be seen walking the torn-up streets of downtown Rhinelander, Wisconsin, wearing his bright lime-green shirt and white hard hat as he checks in on work crews.
“I get a good feeling when I see it all coming together,” says Brey, project engineer for Town & Country Engineering. “It’s been a good, successful project.”
Brey, a 1978 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is familiar with Rhinelander and the last several projects that have been undertaken in the city the last six years on the water and wastewater side.
“I had been laid off from a previous job for 15 months when Gene (Laschinger) from Town & Country called and asked if I would be interested in coming up to Rhinelander to help with the construction of a wastewater treatment plant,” Brey says. “Being unemployed at the time, I jumped at it.”
The $24 million dollar wastewater treatment plant project in 2010 was Brey’s first experience working on anything in Rhinelander, but it wouldn’t be his last. The latest undertaking is the Downtown Streetscape Project that has occurred this summer in which crews have been separating combined sewers and updating water and sewer mains. Another major sewer infrastructure project on the periphery of the downtown area that wrapped up in 2014 set the stage for the current work.
“That project was a very interesting two-year project where I was exposed to a lot of the public here and got to know a lot of folks,” Brey says. “That’s helped in this project here, because I knew what I was getting into.”
Engineering From the Start
Right after graduating in 1978, Brey jumped into the engineering consulting industry taking a job with Madison-based Mead & Hunt Consulting where he worked in the company’s Sanitary Engineering Department for three years.
After that post, Brey moved to Thornton, Colorado, where he stayed for 10 years. He started as the Denver suburb’s utility field engineer for the water and sewer department and then moved up to construction services manager, and city engineer a couple years later.
“It was a good learning experience for me managing a large group of professionals and seeing everything that goes into a municipality,” Brey says. “After that I came back to Wisconsin, moving back to my hometown of Reedsburg.”
In Reedsburg, Brey landed a job with Vierbicher Associates — which is serving as a sub-consultant on the current Rhinelander project. He served as a project engineer and headed up the engineering department for 14 years.
“With Vierbicher, I was responsible for getting new work proposals, supervising the people and overseeing construction activities,” Brey says. “It was similar to what we’re doing here, only I had a few more responsibilities there.”
From there, Brey moved on to General Engineering Company out of Portage, Wisconsin, for three years before getting laid off when the economy crashed in 2008.
Having been employed in a municipal environment in Colorado and working on many wastewater treatment plants throughout his career and dealing with city officials has helped Brey throughout the Rhinelander Downtown Streetscape Project.
“Especially in working with the general public and contractors and so forth,” Brey says. “It helps me in feeling comfortable in what I need to do and the decisions I need to make.”
Brey says his past experiences have helped him understand all the intricacies of city government and how it impacts the projects he is working on.
Now that the Streetscape Project is nearing primary completion, Brey says he can look back and feel good about the work he’s done in Rhinelander.
“A project like this, this big and complicated. We had to set up a number of milestones along the way,” Brey says. “When you hit those milestones it’s really rewarding. When I can see a project like this function, that is when I feel good about my work.”