Haskell Project Superintendent Joey Montano has a thing about islands.
He grew up in Orange County, Calif., then moved to Hawaii for 17 years. He lived and worked on all the islands. Life on the Big Island is slow; Oahu is fast paced. Maui was his favorite because of the nightlight and the quiet secluded beaches.
He preferred snorkeling to surfing. And he free-dived. He could hold his breath down to almost 40 feet, not championship depth but more than many people can do. He also enjoyed kayaking, fishing and hiking.
“I hiked up Diamondhead on Oahu and around the Napali Coast on Kauai,” he said.
Work initially took Montano to the islands. He started in construction in California, installing pay phones and doing kitchen remodels with a friend. Then the friend moved to Hawaii, started his own construction firm and offered Montano a job.
“We did residential and tenant improvements, built out a shoe store in a mall — things like that. I worked into foreman roles,” Montano said. “We did that for 7½ years, but then we went out of business.”
From there, he went to Oahu to work for the company that did Starbucks renovations.
Subsequently, he entered construction management, applying his self-perform experience and expertise in sequencing, safety, quality control on major projects at the University of Hawaii, the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children and Waikoloa Marriott South Tower.
Then a couple of years ago, a friend told him about Haskell. “I sent in my resume, and here I am, living on another island,” Montano said.
Montano currently is overseeing construction of the P-720 Austere Quarters at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) on Andros Island, Bahamas. It’s a $27.3 million design-build project.
For civilians, the austere quarters building is a military hotel with 44 rooms, each featuring bunkbeds to sleep two to four. The project also has an administrative building and laundry.
The Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center is a laboratory with a mix of Coast Guard, Navy personnel and civilians conducting testing, evaluation, and underwater research.
Receiving project materials in the remote location is an issue, Montano said. “We have to wait for a barge, and if you miss the barge, you have wait or charter a plane or a vessel to bring it in.”
Project Manager Bradley Corporon said staffing can be tough as well but that Montano took the challenges in stride.
“A lot of people don’t want to go down there. Andros isn’t a vacation spot,” Corporon said. “It’s remote. You have to drive a couple of hours to get to a restaurant. There’s no Chick-fil-A or McDonald’s. Joey has a great attitude about it.”
Montano enjoys fishing on Andros from the shore or the base pier. He catches Spanish mackerel, snapper, mutton snapper, sharks and bonefish.
“Bonefish aren’t big, about 7 pounds, but they fight really hard,” Montano said.
If he wants more excitement, he flies to Nassau, about a 15-minute trip. “They have restaurants, beaches, shops, casinos. That’s where you go on weekends.”
Montano said he’s enjoyed the two years he’s worked at Haskell. Since joining the company, he’s overseen the construction of an aircraft maintenance hangar at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C., and a design-build project to deliver a grain shed at Anheuser-Busch in Jacksonville.
For now, his days of island living will continue. The AUTEC project is slated for completion in June 2023.
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