How the Physical Plant maintains campus while students are gone
When students and professors of FGCU leave campus for the duration of winter break, the Physical Plant begins behind-the-scenes work, maintaining campus grounds and buildings in preparation for the upcoming spring semester.
Jim Hehl, director of the Physical Plant at FGCU says that while the plant, a division of Operations and Maintenance, doesn’t do anything extraordinarily different than any other workday, they utilize the campus’ emptiness to get work done more quickly.
“We schedule some electrical testing during the break,” Hehl said. “Electricians and staff members come in and work those days and take time off at a separate time.”
Just because school is not in session does not mean that the custodial staff now has a month off like students. Physical Plant workers tend to have Christmas through New Year’s Day off, but are working on campus up until that first day of the holidays.
“We don’t work around the academic calendar,” Hehl said. “Custodial staff is here for a limited capacity, special events like athletic games, while the rest of the staff is off.”
Responsibilities that fall under the Physical Plant include building maintenance, repairs, alterations and renovations, routine maintenance of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, warehouse operations, road maintenance, landscaping and irrigation, as well as inspecting and maintaining utility systems along with heating and air conditioning systems.
The Physical Plant costs are split into two categories — Routine Service and Special Service Requests. The maintenance budget, made up of fees and expenses after a maintenance request occurs, supports routine services that have to be approved by the vice president of Administrative Services. These include but are not limited to repairing electric, gas, water and sewer systems, pest control and custodial and grounds services.
Services that are requested outside of the normal scheduled periods and outside of the regular scope of routine services are considered billable and will be charged to the requesting department or college. These special services include moving, carpentry, cleaning/ custodial services outside of scheduled times, golf cart repair, plumbing and installation of materials including keyboards, bulletin boards and coat hooks.
Hehl’s main focus at his job is to take care of campus athletics and recreation, as well as maintenance through the Physical Plant. Hehl also runs the chiller plant, which circulates air conditioning throughout campus. Operators are on campus working with the chiller every day.
“The most important part of campus for me is keeping the lights on,” Hehl said. “The chiller operations need constant care (as well).”
The school recognizes the importance of family time to its faculty and staff, giving them time off in celebration of the various holidays in December. Staff members are always home in time for Christmas Eve.
“We work around their schedule, so they can be here working and then be with their families,” Hehl said.
Sunny beaches, wild parties and a week of pure relaxation come to mind when one thinks of spring break. For custodial workers at FGCU, however, there are no days off.
“We don’t get off for spring break,” Hehl said. “Its business as usual. It gives us an opportunity to get into classrooms since students are gone from schools. We also do that in between terms, like summer A and B.”
Although students will no longer be occupying classrooms during the majority of the month of December, that doesn’t mean classrooms will necessarily be empty, which in turn means that the Physical Plant will be constantly working.
“Just because the kids aren’t here doesn’t mean that the classrooms aren’t occupied,” Hehl said. “Other outside businesses could be occupying classrooms.”