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Maintenance cuts present problems for Southern

11/08/2010
By:

Stephanie Paulino

News Writer

Just a few years after Southern lost 26 maintenance personnel as a result of the State’s early retirement plan, it was announced last week that five more positions will be cut by the start of the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011.

Robert Sheeley, associate vice president of Capital Budgeting & Facilities Operations said he has only been able to fill a few positions since the retirement program. The 26 positions included custodians, electricians, plumbers, heating ventilation and air conditioning personnel and carpenters.

“We’ve suffered some losses over the last several years that have had an impact in our ability to do things, “ said Sheeley, “But we’re not unique as far as losing positions or not being able to fill positions, these are tough financial times so in order to get through theses times were going to experience some pain.”

During last week’s town hall meeting, Executive Vice President, James Blake, announced there would be five less maintenance positions budgeted by July 1, saving the university $782,084. Currently there are 130 positions budgeted.

Sheeley said to reduce expenditures his department has found ways to work more efficiently.

“When you have staff and everything is going fine although you are still looking at the efficiencies in the way you do things, you’re not looking as hard at those efficiencies that you might be able to employ,” said Sheeley.

Sheeley said if traditionally custodial staff was cleaning classrooms every night, now the same classrooms might be cleaned every other night or just Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.

Also, in considering temperature settings for heat and air conditioner, Sheeley said he has estimated that $25,000 is saved for every degree the heat is lowered throughout the university based on consumption and type of square footage that is being heated.

Sheeley said in recent construction projects, like 255,000 sq. ft. Engelmann Hall, new thermostats have been put in so people can change the temperature plus or minus three degrees.

“What we’ve tried to do is provide for that different level of tolerance that individuals might have for heating and cooling,” said Sheeley.

A new energy center has allowed Southern to save 45 percent on fuel consumption.

Sheeley said he could change from oil to natural gas in a matter of hours, which is predicated on what is cheaper at any given time.

Sheeley said although there are greater demands on the remaining maintenance staff, residence hall students are priority number one. Work orders that are placed from resident students are then prioritized.

For example, a work order from a student with a broken toilet living in an apartment-style dorm will be
taken care of sooner than a work order from a student living in a straight-line residence hall, where there are multiple bathroom facilities, said Sheeley.

A resident of Schwartz Hall, Stacey Kujawa, said after placing several work orders, she and her three roommates waited a month and a half for a new dishwasher.

Kujawa, a senior nursing major, said during the second week of school, she discovered that her dishwasher wasn’t working. After placing a work order, a maintenance employee came to look at it and told her it would be replaced with a new one.

Week after week, she continued to put in work orders and got in touch with their hall director, who wasn’t able to solve the problem, said Kujawa.

Finally, after turning to the associate director of Residence Life, Kujawa said she received a new dishwasher.

“It was a huge inconvenience because four people trying to wash dishes and everybody trying to use the same pots and pans—it was a crazy frenzy in the kitchen,” said Kujawa. “It wasn’t an emergency but it should have been priority after a month.”

On a separate occasion, Kujawa said she and her roommates filed a work order because the air conditioner in their room was leaking onto the floor and began growing mold. After waiting two weeks, a maintenance employee came to inspect the leak after the floor had already dried.

Sheeley said the true impacts of cuts in budget and personnel are delayed repairs, less frequent cleaning, and what he calls, “deferred maintenance.”

“For instance, you might need to do X, Y and Z, and now you’re just going to go over and put a plug on it because you have so many other demands to meet, so eventually that plug becomes a larger maintenance issue, and that becomes a larger expense down the line,” said Sheeley.

An example of deferred maintenance is a roof on the lower level of Moore Fieldhouse. The 14-year-old roof has caused leaks several times and maintenance personnel have gone to patch it up, but in reality, the roof needs to be replaced, said Sheeley.

Antonio Acedo, coordinator of athletics facilities, said the lower level are of the Fieldhouse which covers locker, training, weight and equipment rooms has been leaking on and off for five years.

Acedo said a rarely used area in the women’s locker room experiences the most leaking.

“Right now it doesn’t affect us,” said Acedo. “The area where most of the leaking occurs is not used on a daily basis.”

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