Facilities adapts to continued understaffing
Abby Epstein – News Writer
More space means more manpower. Southern has increased its square footage, but has not increased the number of facility workers needed to maintain it.
“I went back 14 years ago and in facilities we had a total staff of 134 people and last year we had 135 and have almost double the square footage to take care of,” said Head of Facilities Bob Sheeley.
Sheeley has not lost people nor been told he has to cut positions.
“When people say, ‘Are you short staff?’ I always say, ‘No not really, it’s just that I haven’t had staff added,’” said Sheeley.
If a worker gets injured and must take a leave of absence, Sheeley is not allowed to find someone to fill that position until the person can come back to work. He must adapt and be down a worker until that person can return.
Due to being understaffed, Facility Operations has had to take a different approach to responding with issues around campus.
“You have to set priorities. We have to do those things that are safety and health first,” said Sheeley.
Because dirty bathrooms are a health issue, they must be cleaned multiple times a day. Lighting and the security system have to be kept up to date because they are safety issues.
“What has happened over the years is we always did that stuff, but we were able to do a lot more because we had less space to worry about,” said Sheeley.
Now having to prioritize, people that want something fixed or cleaned may have to wait a while due to the other issues that need immediate attention.
“If someone wants their rug cleaned it’s a low priority. Fourteen years ago, we could do it. Now we have to wait until we can squeeze it in,” said Sheeley.
Even with having to prioritize, students in the dorms say most of their problems get solved within a week.
“We had problems with our Wi-Fi at the beginning of the year and they had maintenance come up and fix it within a few days,” said exploratory major Ella White, a freshman.
For some students problems they had in their dorms were not fixed on the day they made the report.
“We lost hot water on Friday, but maintenance was able to fix it by Sunday,” said sports management major Jake Mattei, a sophomore who lives in Hickerson.
There are jobs that are required to get done daily, but there must also be leeway for when emergencies occur.
“Let’s say we have a leak in a building and ceiling tiles are damaged and the rug is soaking wet. I have to have the resources to handle that because the rug could get mold which is a health issue,” said Sheeley.
He said every issue comes back to health and safety. If the problem fits into either category, it takes priority in being fixed.
The administration from the president and down are as concerned as I am about health and safety. It’s got to come first,” said Sheeley. “Every day is a challenge in that you come in, and with 40 buildings, you get a lot of phone calls. We would like to respond to everyone that calls, but we only have the resources that we have and we have to prioritize.”
Photo Credit: Jacob Waring