Posted November 4, 2020
Maintaining the campus of UW-River Falls has become even more important with regards to creating a safe environment for faculty, students and staff during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and that task has largely been the responsibility of Facilities Management.
Cara Rubis, director of the University Center and Dining Services, said she is very appreciative of the role of Facilities Management in ensuring the campus was able to open this semester.
“There were countless deadlines to meet in order to have campus buildings transformed into safe spaces for the campus community,” she said in an emailed statement. “Related to facility projects in the UC, Facilities Management continues to prioritize campus projects based on timelines, urgency, staffing and funding.”
Facilities Management Director Alan Symicek said that staffing has started to return to normal. However, there was a period of time when the pandemic first started that staffing had become thinned.
“So when the campus went fully online there was a period of time where we sent most of our staff home for that and there was COVID leave pay or there was furlough periods where the employees were not getting payed,” Symicek said. He said during this period any remaining staff were kept for essential operations such as maintaining the heating plant and advancing critical construction projects.
Back in March, Facilities Management had been working on remodeling May Hall and the restrooms of Grimm Hall. Symicek explained that with students planning to live in the buildings this semester, Facilities Management had no choice but to keep advancing the projects.
Some work in the Agricultural Science Building and in Centennial Hall did get delayed as a result of the contractor being unable to secure materials due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Ag Sci 120 was the animal physiology lab. Ag Sci 335, I believe, is a geology room. And then Centennial 152 will be an active classroom used by physics extensively,” he said. In the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building, a remodel of a media studio room was set to be completed in October.
Other projects are in the process of wrapping up. Two of those projects involve campus utilities.
“One is the heating plant,” Symicek said. “We’re converting from the coal system to a fuel/oil backup.”
The campus has been using coal as a backup fuel source to heat buildings. Natural gas, according to Symicek, will continue to be the primary building heating source on campus.
“That’s a big multi-million dollar project and also we’re just completing the electrical substation that feeds power off campus,” he said.
The new campus electric substation has two different utility lines to feed power into the campus buildings and has replaced electrical switching equipment that was 34 years old.
“It’s a project,” Symicek said, “that you have to do every 30 to 35 years.”