Shrunken Facilities Staff Makes Do to Keep Campus Safe and Attractive

El Vaquero Staff Writer

With cutbacks made to the Facilities Management Department two years ago, the department has had to deal with a smaller staff to carry out the vast amount of maintenance responsibilities needed to keep the campus clean inside the buildings as well as on the grounds.

There were no layoffs, but the department has been unable to replace employees who quit, were terminated or retired.
According to Lew Lewis, director of facilities, the department had a total of 57 workers and has lost about a dozen of them. Ten of these employees were custodians.

On the 560,000-square-foot GCC campus, each custodian is now responsible for about 30,000 square feet, which is nearly double what it was five years ago, said Dan Padilla, manager of maintenance and operations.

“Since they are responsible for twice as much area, they have had to reduce their schedule — like how often they mop floors, clean windows, wash walls and other extra things that make this campus looking cleaner that it is now,” Padilla said.

The smaller staff and bigger workload has caused facilities department workers to reduce the maintenance campus, with sometimes noticeable effects.

In and around the campus, litter can often be seen accumulating, and the department gets frequent complaints from the faculty about dirty floors, carpets, and desktops in classrooms.

Lewis, who has been director of facilities for nine years, said the department puts priority on “must-clean items.” Places such as the cafeteria, the culinary arts building, the childcare building and restrooms must be cleaned on a daily basis for health and safety reasons.

The maintenance and operation workers, who include gardeners, plumbers, electricians, utility workers and custodians, are responsible for a variety of tasks on campus. Cleaning the restrooms and supplying them with paper, mopping up spills, picking up trash and emptying the trash are some of the duties custodians take care of.

Utility workers have similar tasks but are also are responsible for setting up, supplying and then bringing down canopies, chairs and tables used for functions held on campus by students and faculty.

Even though the department is responsible for all of these duties, Lewis believes part of the responsibility for keeping the campus looking clean not only relies on the custodians, but on the students as well. He attributes part of the problems to a population of students who don’t take pride in the appearance of the campus.

According to Lewis, at the turn of each new semester “the young freshmen tend to come in to mark their territory, for example with graffiti, and not pick up after themselves and use this [the campus] more as a hang out place.”

Padilla said that in restrooms custodians often have to deal with unpleasant, appalling, and inexcusable sights, such as tagging and toilets that have been intentionally clogged. They have even had to pick up after students who have defecated on the floor.

“If we all take an effort in picking up after ourselves, it would take a tremendous workload off our staff and more things can get accomplished,” said Lewis.

The department is also in the process of changing the shift of the night crew in order to get more work done. Since some classes run until 10 p.m., the night crew often has difficulty getting work done in classes that are still in session. Currently the night shift works from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., but the department wants to change the hours so that workers come in at 10 p.m. and leave at 6:30 a.m.

The Board of Trustees also recently approved two new positions for the department, which is actually a replacement of two of the 12 positions that were lost and not replaced during the cutbacks. “I do see an upward trend to replenish the staff we lost to at least bring us up to a standard to where we can provide adequate services throughout the campus,” said Lewis.

With the construction of a new Allied Health Building and parking structure on campus, which are set to open in the spring of 2007, and plans to build a new student services building and a press box on Sartoris Field, Lewis said “staffing has to increase” in order to maintain good services to all the new buildings.

Nonetheless, Lewis has nothing but praise for his staff, which has also had to deal with working with minimal equipment and supplies. “I have nothing but high regard for the staff that is here because not only have they acquired more responsibilities, they are working twice as hard,” said Lewis. “They are to be commended for the way they are maintaining the campus with the situation they are in.”