Five Star Equipment Building for the Future

By: Sarah Hall

Five Star Equipment prides itself on, above all else, five core values: customer focus, integrity, accountability, teamwork and excellence.

Five Star Equipment is a full-service dealer for a number of major construction equipment brands, including John Deere, Hitachi, Bomag, Topcon, Fecon and dozens of other manufacturers. Their client list is made up of private and municipal customers in the construction, forestry, and commercial worksite industries in northern Pennsylvania and central and western New York state.

“We are a full-service dealer, which means we provide all of the support to our customers before, during and after the sale,” said Five Star Equipment’s Marketing Director Patricia O’Brien. “We provide our customers with virtually all of their equipment and attachment needs, as well as product support after the sale by John Deere factory-certified service technicians.”

The company has seven locations: Dunmore, Williamsport, and Waterford, Pennsylvania, and Kirkwood, Syracuse, Rochester and Orchard Park, New York.

Five Star Equipment was founded in 1980 by business partners Frank Gallo, Bill Bochicchio, Sr. and Louis DeNaples. After a few years of successful business operations with a full-line GMC truck dealership located just outside of Scranton, PA, the entrepreneurs acquired a John Deere Construction and Forestry dealership in the area. John Deere continued to offer the company expansion opportunities in New York and Pennsylvania. Over the following decades the company adjusted its dealer footprint and now serves customers from seven locations covering 57 counties in the neighboring states.


Fast forward to 2016, when Bill Farrell was brought on board as the company’s first Chief Executive Officer. Farrell and Five Star Equipment’s Senior Leadership Team have created a long-range strategic plan to reinvest in the business to carry it into the future.

New Syracuse facility

A significant part of that strategic plan is the construction of a new facility in Syracuse, New York. The current building was constructed in 1991 and, according to Farrell, has outgrown the ability to service the needs of Five Star Equipment’s customers and its employees.

“Syracuse is a growing, vibrant market. This new facility is an investment in our employees and the customers that we serve,” Farrell said. “Our goal in Syracuse is to create an environment that provides our people with the tools and infrastructure they need to achieve success, which, in turn, provides our valued customers with world class equipment backed by outstanding service.”

Located in Airport Business Park at 5801 E. Taft Road along I-81 North, the 25,000-square-foot facility is situated on approximately 10 acres and includes the following features:

  • Building design is geared towards maximizing efficiency and service capabilities
  • An outdoor equipment “playground” will allow customers the opportunity to demo equipment on-site
  • Expansive showroom/reception area with a modern, computerized parts counter plus a designated customer portal parts pick-up counter
  • Curbside/external parts pickup area
  • Parts warehouse with garage door access for receiving and parts dispatch
  • Eight-bay service area equipped with four 10-ton overhead cranes
  • Separate equipment wash bay
  • Sales and administrative offices and conference rooms for training sessions and customer meetings
  • Breakroom, locker rooms and rest rooms

“Everyone in the Syracuse branch is very excited about the new facility. It’s really taking shape with the exterior just about buttoned up. We are looking forward to a new shop with capabilities to perform work at ease,” said Syracuse interim General Manager Valerie Smith, who joined the company in 1990. “Personally, I’m very happy to be a part of this next phase that Five Star Equipment has taken. I love what I’m seeing with the growing success of this company.”

From this location, customers will receive full product support in the shop or in the field by John Deere Certified Service Technicians. This location provides service to Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Oswego, Madison, Oneida and Herkimer counties. Field service work is completed using two fully stocked road service trucks.

The construction in Syracuse follows the construction of a new facility in Orchard Park, New York, as well as renovations of the locations in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and Kirkwood, New York, all of which have taken place over the last two years.

Recruiting—and keeping—the best

Having the best possible facilities will allow Five Star Equipment to continue to meet the high standards set by the brands they represent.

“We are very proud to represent all of these brands, particularly John Deere,” O’Brien said. “Our employees are regularly trained via online courses and in-person training by John Deere and other manufacturers to ensure our product knowledge is at the highest level to allow us to best serve our customers.”

And it’s representing those brands that draws employees to work for Five Star Equipment —though finding qualified workers can be a challenge.

“There is a nationwide shortage of experienced service technicians that are capable of working on heavy equipment and large diesel machines,” O’Brien said. “We are continuing to build relationships with area colleges that offer the types of programs that produce service technicians who are ready to work on machines, but we are also looking for more experienced service technicians. That’s probably the biggest challenge for us as an organization from a Human Resources perspective.”

Once employees have hired on with the company, however, they’re likely to stay. Many employees, like Valerie Smith, have been with Five Star Equipment for decades. Farrell said that’s thanks to the culture of teamwork, accountability and transparency built by the organization’s senior leadership.

“Our doors are always open,” he said. “Anyone at any time can approach a branch General Manager, a member of the corporate Senior Leadership Team or me with an idea, suggestion or concern and they are heard.”

That’s the idea behind Five Star Equipment’s Powering Your Success tagline, which seeks to empower both employees and customers.

“We introduced Powering Your Success as our corporate tagline in the fall of 2018,” Farrell said. “For our employees, it means the company is powering their success by providing them with the tools they need to do their job including new and remodeled facilities, a new Human Resources system, opportunities for growth and development, and much more. For our customers, it means that we are an important contributor to their success by providing outstanding equipment, support and service throughout the life of the machines or parts they purchase from us.”

A bright future

At the moment, Five Star Equipment, like everyone else, is in uncharted territory due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But leadership is confident this is little more than a bump in the road.

“For the immediate future, we are looking for the economy to bounce back so that our customers can return to their full workload as the COVID-19 pandemic continues,” O’Brien said. “We have kept in regular contact with our customers to help them weather this storm however we could, by offering special programs and discounts on rentals, purchases and service programs.”

And as things return to normal, O’Brien said Five Star Equipment is looking to expand is customer base in its existing seven locations. She said the best way to do that is by investing in the business.

“One way to grow is by recruiting, retaining and training top talent at all levels of the company,” she said. “Another way to grow is by providing our customers and employees with modern facilities, like the one we are building in Syracuse. These facilities will enable our employees to work more efficiently and have the right tools in place to best serve our customers.”

Abscope Environmental Takes On New Leadership

By: Tami S. Scott

More About the Major Players

  • President and CEO Bob Romagnoli has spent all of his career in the environmental world, primarily on the consulting side. He has led multi-million-dollar Superfund remediation programs from investigation/design to construction and developed turn-key environmental strategies for numerous Fortune 100 companies. He served as Sr. Vice President at Arcadis and Managing Director at TIG Environmental before joining Abscope in January 2019.
  • Executive Vice President Rob Gray has more than 28 years of experience in the Environmental Remediation field. He has been an instrumental member of the Abscope Team since 1995. He has extensive project experience with MGP remediation, Hazardous Waste Remediation, Stream Sediment Removal, ISS, Sheet Pile Installation, Deep Excavations, and Site Development Projects.
  • Executive Vice President Robert Duffy has been a key employee of Abscope Environmental since 1989 and Vice President since 2009. Prior to 2009, Robert was General Manager for five years, managing and coordinating a variety of asbestos abatement projects throughout the Northeastern and Midwestern US. Since 1989, he has successfully supervised and/or managed more than 3,500 asbestos abatement projects.

Based in small-town Canastota, New York, Abscope Environmental’s roots reach back to the early 1970s when John Romagnoli established Canastota Constructors, a company that focused on heavy highway construction and site development.

It was 18 years later in 1989, when John, together with his sons, Jack and Jerry, founded Abscope, once described by Jerry as a spin-off of his dad’s livelihood. Over time, the company has grown to become one of the premier environmental remediation construction firms in the country. Today, Abscope embraces an era of new leadership, and is proud to announce its most recent developments.    

A New Era

Over the past two years, Jack and Jerry gradually hung up their Abscope hats for new roles as retirees, and gracefully passed the torch to their youngest brother, Bob Romagnoli. It was somewhat an expected rotation of ownership as the trio had talked about it for years, but as Bob explained, the timing now was finally right. With more than 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, Bob is more than prepared to take on the family dynasty—and with good company.

In March 2020, long-time employees and minority owners since 2010, Robert Duffy and Rob Gray, signed on as majority partners, having an opportunity to own a larger percentage of the company. The contract was signed about two weeks prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and Robert joked that had the deal been further delayed, he might have run the other way. As with Bob Romagnoli, timing is everything, and fortunately, Abscope is surviving the pandemic with minimal upset, having been deemed “essential” from the start. 

“[Rob Gray and Robert Duffy] have been an integral part of the company for decades now, and together with my brothers, developed the successful business that we have today,” President and CEO Bob Romagnoli said.

General Manager Steve Mitchell, who has been with the company for 30 years, has also been a critical piece in the growth and success of Abscope. Mitchell handles the day-to-day coordination of resources and equipment, and according to Romagnoli, “stands on his head” to keep things running smoothly. “Stevie is laser focused on ensuring that all of our projects are properly staffed and equipped; his attention to detail is extraordinary,” he said.    

The New Normal

Though the current pandemic has postponed some state-funded school-related projects, overall, it has been business as usual — with just a few tweaks. Since COVID-19 has surfaced, there has been a heightened need for both preventative and reactive office cleaning to ensure a safe workspace. This type of service is a natural fit for Abscope’s Industrial Decontamination capabilities. Abscope can provide all surface sanitization and disinfection (aggressive industrial cleans), or it can serve a client through containment, decontamination, and remediation of coronavirus infectious sites and waste.

The company’s response methods are in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approved antimicrobial products, and OSHA’s COVID-19 planning guidance.

The team has had no active cases of the coronavirus to date.

Areas of Expertise — Rob Gray

Executive Vice President Rob Gray heads up both the remediation and geotechnical divisions, the former having gained “expert” status, the latter being a relatively new area for Abscope.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years we’ve been a pretty strong player in the MGP market,” which is short for Manufactured Gas Plant Remediation, Gray said. “We do much of that work for utilities such as NYSEG, National Grid and Rochester Gas & Electric Company (RG&E). This is an area where we’ve established a solid presence, and get a good share of the work, given our expertise.”

New York State has numerous MGP sites, Gray said, adding that “the list of sites gets longer each year [and] utility companies are doing all they can to get the sites cleaned up.”

While Abscope also provides a variety of geotechnical services such as shoreline stabilization, sheet piling, groundwater cut-off wall installation, and in-situ soil stabilization (ISS), they tend to fly under the radar a bit. Despite that, Abscope has worked on numerous geotechnical projects throughout its history, inspired by the company’s civil construction roots. Most recently, Abscope completed a shoreline stabilization project on Onondaga Lake, located directly in front of the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater. The next shoreline stabilization project may be out of state. “It’s an active market in Michigan right now, and we’re accustomed to working throughout the Mid-West,” Gray said.

Abscope is also gaining traction in another new territory, providing civil works for windfarm repowering projects. The work generally includes developing lay down areas, access roads, crane pads, and various other site improvements needed to replace wind turbine components. This relatively new market for Abscope began in 2018 when a “green energy” developer contacted the company for support at a local windfarm. They selected Abscope due to its stellar safety record and reputation in the region. Since then, Abscope has continued to service this client throughout the US.

Areas of Expertise — Robert Duffy

Executive Vice President Robert Duffy, alongside General Manager Steve Mitchell, is charged with leading the asbestos abatement and industrial decontamination division.

Asbestos abatement services include the removal, encapsulation, enclosure, transportation, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, as well as building demolition or selective demolition of building components. It also entails both lead and mold remediation.

Like Gray, Duffy’s involvement at Abscope goes back decades. He has been, and continues to be, a key player at Abscope, interacting daily with clients, regulatory personnel, subcontractors, and project engineers. He is also responsible for estimating, proposal development, submittal generation, waste disposal coordination, and final report development. Duffy has been instrumental in the development of project-specific health and safety work plans and Abscope’s company-wide, behavior-based Health and Safety program.

Reflecting on his years of dedication and service to Abscope, Gray said the opportunity that Jack and Jerry gave both him and Duffy has meant a lot to him. “They saw a lot of potential in us and determined that we were guys they should hold onto to help keep the company going when they retired,” he said. “I appreciate and thank them for the opportunity they gave [us].”

Construction in the Post-Pandemic World

By: Diana I. Plue, Esq. and Anthony C. Galli, Esq., Sheats & Bailey, PLLC

Construction projects in New York State are back in action.  Owners are happy to have their projects progress, and anxious to complete them as close to their original schedule as possible.  The desire to meet the original deadlines may lead to an owner or general contractor accelerating a project or demanding a subcontractor increase its workforce.  Work will likely be performed out of sequence.  All of this could be problematic because the simultaneous restart of the majority of construction projects will strain the already dwindling labor force.  There are only so many carpenters, electricians, masons, etc. available.  Contractors may find themselves unable to procure the skilled labor needed to perform the work as contracted—and on time.

Furthermore, other coronavirus-related factors may further burden the labor force, such as construction owners and contractors being required to conduct daily health screenings of their employees, clean and disinfect job areas after every shift, maintain a log of visitors and workers on site, and adjust shifts and sequencing of work to maintain social distancing as much as feasibly possible. These mandatory changes may affect a contractor’s ability to timely complete their work as contracted or cause additional expenses.

What should a contractor do when confronted with increased costs due to inefficiency on a job site, an owner accelerating the work, and/or increased costs due to delays in completing the work?  A contractor must give notice of its claim for additional compensation or more time.  Construction contracts often have requirements for processing claims for additional money and additional time.  A notice of claim clause is a “condition precedent” clause; meaning something must be done before something else can happen.  A notice of a claim must be provided before getting paid for the claim/additional work.  These clauses are strictly enforced.  A contractor’s failure to comply with a notice of claim clause can destroy its right to get paid for that additional work. 

On a public works project, a statute might also govern the time and method of filing a notice of claim.  For example, on a school project, a contractor must file a Verified Notice of Claim with the governing body of the school district within 90 days after a claim accrues (Education Law § 3813).  A claim on a school project accrues when a request for payment for a sum of money/extra work is denied.  This can happen in an obvious way with a request and a denial in writing.  It can also happen in a less obvious way, such as a partial denial of an application for payment, or denial of a change order request.  The 90-day clock starts to tick from that point in time. 

Examples of other public entities with statutory requirements for notice of claims are included in the following chart.  These statutes might also contain statutes of limitations to sue.  On school projects, the Education Law requires a lawsuit to be commenced against a school within one (1) year after that date the claim accrues. 


Public Entity

Notice of Claim

Statute of Limitations

Villages (CPLR § 9802).

File a written verified notice of claim within one year of claim accrual.


Must commence action within 18 months after claim accrues.

Town Law (Town Law § 65(3)).

Must file a written verified notice of claim within 6 months of the date the claim accrued.


Commence action within 18 months of date claim accrues.

School Districts and Schools (Education Law § 3813).

File a detailed written verified complaint with the school board within 3 months after the accrual of the claim.


Commence action within one year of the date the claim accrues.

City of Syracuse.

File a written verified complaint within 90 days of the date the claim arises.


Commence action within one year and 90 days from the date the claim accrued.

Contractors must know about both contractual and statutory notice of claims requirements.  Read your contract and read your supplementary general conditions.  Consult with qualified and experienced counsel who can provide guidance with regard to construction claim processing requirements on public works projects.  Make sure you protect your rights by filing a notice of claim as required by either or both your contract and statute.  Failure to know and follow the contractual and statutory requirements for a notice of claim could lead to you not being paid thousands of dollars in legitimate claims.  

For more information, contact Diana I. Plue, Esq. or Anthony C. Galli, Esq. at Sheats & Bailey, PLLC; a law firm dedicated to serving the construction industry.  Tel:  (315) 676-7314 / Email:,


The information provided in this article is not intended to serve as specific legal advice for any particular situation.  Competent legal and experienced counsel should be consulted.