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Father-son bridge builders span generations
Jacob Green follows dad in business, both knowing safety comes first
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Jacob Greer gets set to go back to work after a break on a recent job by Scott Bridge Co. in South Hall. Greer, still relatively new to bridge work, wants to learn the business and one day operate cranes for the company.

Jacob Greer has at least one very good reason to be thankful on Father’s Day.

Growing up, he would go to his father’s bridge construction sites, but he hadn’t considered following in his footsteps. That is, until his dad, Richard Greer, offered a suggestion.

“He said ‘I can get you a job,’ and so I started (with his company), and now I love it,” Jacob said. And so the 19-year-old North Hall native joined Scott Bridge Co. of Opelika, Ala., a company that Richard, 49, has spent nearly three decades with.

And Jacob is having a blast — literally.

“I like working with heavy equipment and stuff like that,” he said. “I figured I’d get to do that out there, and I have. It’s all fun to me.”

One thing Richard Greer has spotted in his son is that “he’s paid attention a lot.”

“That’s the main thing,” he said. “With this type of work, you’ve got to be focused on what you’re doing.”

Father’s Day is special for another reason: It falls on a weekend day, one of the rare occasions the two can share time at home.

The bridge-building duo has spent weeks apart during the spring, as Jacob has worked on culvert project in South Hall and Richard has worked in Lincolnton, nearly 100 miles away on the South Carolina border.

When they are together, “we don’t really talk about work,” said, Jacob, who is still living at his parent’s place off Dahlonega Highway near Clermont. “Work stays at work and home is home.”

In coming months, the pair might be able to spend more together — at home and work — as a West Hall bridge project gets underway.

Scott Bridge has been contracted by the Georgia Department of Transportation to replace the bridge on Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 over the Chestatee River at the Hall-Forsyth County line. The project could start Nov. 1, officials have said.

Regardless of when the two get to work on the same project, “I’m looking forward to it, because he has a lot of experience and I can learn a lot from him,” Jacob said.

Richard serves as a general superintendent, managing several projects at one time.

Although still young in his bridge building career, one thing Jacob has learned quickly about his career is how workers must take their time to stay out of danger.

“You always need to go slower because when you go slower, it’s safer,” he said. “And then, you’ve got to watch out for everybody around you, too. If somebody else messes up, it’s going to come back on you.”

Such is the life of a bridge laborer, a job that requires a definite skill set, but also great care and patience.

Dangers of the work were illustrated in March, when a worker fell during repairs to the westbound Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 bridge over Lake Lanier. The worker wound up in Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville but was expected to recover fully.

Bridge workers will become plentiful over the next several years as the DOT begins in earnest replacing aging bridges over Lake Lanier.

In addition to the Hall-Forsyth County bridge, two bridges on Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 are scheduled for replacement, starting in 2016-17 — one crossing the Chattahoochee River and the other crossing East Fork Little River.

And right of way acquisition is underway on Browns Bridge, a much-photographed and distinctive green bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River at the Hall-Forsyth line. Construction could begin in 2017-18.

Last year, work wrapped up on a new Clarks Bridge on Clarks Bridge Road/Ga. 284 and the Chattahoochee River near the Lake Lanier Olympic Park.

The key to getting bridges built is teamwork, Richard said, adding that things don’t always go smoothly.

“There are going to be good days and bad days,” he said.

Richard’s wife and Jacob’s mother, Kelly Greer, knows all too well the dangers involved in their jobs.

“My dad, my grandfather and my uncle all worked for the same company, so I grew up around bridge work,” she said. “Now that I’m older, I realize the dangers a lot more, so I do worry about them.

“Sometimes, they work long hours, and with the heat and being out in the weather, it’s not an easy job.”

Kelly said she never tried to steer her son toward another career, focusing instead on “whatever he wanted to do to be happy.”

Still, any bridges built on Father’s Day will be more about drawing closer as a family.

“We’ll go to church ... then probably let (Richard) choose where we go to eat (dinner),” Kelly said.

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