OUC donated six precast underground utility junction boxes to St. Cloud Fire Rescue, which will use them for confined-space training exercises.

“At the end of the day, this is dollars saved for our taxpayers,” said St. Cloud Fire Rescue Chief Jason Miller, pointing to six square-shaped concrete structures that his firefighters will use for confined-space training.

Donated by OUC, the 50,000 pounds of precast underground utility junction boxes were relocated on March 7 from the construction site of OUC’s St. Cloud Operations and Maintenance Center to Fire Rescue’s Alan C. MacAllaster Public Safety Training Complex. OUC also donated 31,000 pounds of Lego-like cement slabs and concrete water pipes that will be used in confined-space training exercises.

Miller said the donated pieces of concrete will be arranged to simulate underground spaces where Fire Rescue Special Operations team members would have to enter to extract a trapped or injured utility worker or citizen.

“It’s never happened in my 25 years here,” said Miller (right), referring to an underground confined-space rescue, “but we still have to train for it.”

OUC took possession of dozens of hefty concrete pieces that were left on the site of its future net-zero campus on Hickory Tree Road in St. Cloud. The new complex will feature sustainably designed offices and state-of-the art warehouse and fleet maintenance facilities. The facility will support operations in providing enhanced reliability and resiliency.

Rather than have the concrete hulks dumped in a landfill, OUC found sustainable uses for them. In June 2019, 400,000 pounds of OUC-donated concrete bin blocks were used in the sinking of an old cargo that was turned into a manmade reef off the coast of Fort Pierce. OUC expects to donate the remaining concrete pieces on the 24-acre site to an upcoming manmade reef project.