The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TCC renovates, repairs campuses’ aging buildings, systems

By Bethany Peterson/editor-in-chief

It takes almost $79 million to maintain the 3.5 million square feet of buildings that make up the five TCC campuses, the district office and numerous satellite centers.

That’s the amount TCC budgeted for maintenance in the 2011-2012 financial year.

The technical name for maintenance is renewal and replacement, and it is the responsibility of the facilities planning and development department directed by Kirby Chadwell.

Actual maintenance is only a small part of the department’s work. Prioritizing, scheduling, budgeting and finding preventative measures are hidden parts of the work.

“We can’t do everything at the same time,” Chadwell said. “We have to figure out strategically what can wait a couple months. Obviously, anything that relates to safety does take a higher priority to other construction projects.”

That places Code Blue phones and fire safety systems on the top of the list. Code Blue phones are tall cylindrical poles that have an emergency phone and a camera mounted in them.

The phones, some already installed on TREC and NE campuses, allow access to emergency personnel, and the cameras let the emergency responder see the caller and the situation to give the best advice. Installation on other campuses is slated for completion by August, Chadwell said.

Fire safety systems, fire alarms and internal sprinkler systems also need attention across the district, he said. The list of fire systems needing upgrading or improvement is long, Chadwell said.

The department plays a balancing act between timely fixes and not disrupting classes.

“We’re moving to a much more efficient lighting system,” Chadwell said. “By and large, that’s interior lighting.”

But replacements can’t happen when classes are in session.

“There are certain times of the year we can’t work on certain things,” Chadwell said. “A lot of holidays, our maintenance guys are still at work.”

One way renovation needs come to attention is through the campus presidents.

“I do walk-abouts with [the NW facilities manager],” said Elva LeBlanc, NW Campus president. “We talk about areas of the campus. Then we have district facilities people follow up and do a full assessment.”

Once needs are identified and validated, a timeline is created.

That sometimes means moving classes or not offering a class at all, LeBlanc said.

“They are renovating the swimming pool, so we haven’t offered any swimming classes,” she said.

Money management is important to the department.

“A lot of our budget this year is MEP [mechanical, electrical and plumbing],” Chadwell said, “somewhat to be expected with the age of the buildings and age of the systems.”

The oldest campus, South Campus, has been open for 44 years, and the NE Campus for nearly that long.

But the department must also be ready for surprises, so they hold part of the budget back for emergency or unexpected needs, Chadwell said.

One such emergency happened last year when part of South Campus flooded, taking months and thousands of dollars to repair.

To prevent another flood, the department is planning to improve drainage on South Campus. This is one

example of the department seeing potential problems and “trying to mitigate those surprises,” Chadwell said. “To have to cancel class is not a good thing.”

One thing the college is doing to help address potential problems early is creating an overarching plan.

“We are currently working on a real estate and facilities master plan that will help TCC project new work and validate everything from the economic factors to cost-effectiveness,” said Nina Petty, vice chancellor of real estate and facilities.

The department also has to decide who will do the work.

“When it’s pure replacement, we just go in and do it,” Chadwell said.

But when a job needs to be handled out-of-house, TCC has a plan for that too.

“We have a pool of approved businesses to choose from,” Chadwell said.

The businesses wanting to be included must first be approved.

“We put them through a pretty rigorous process,” Petty said.

If the business passes, it is placed in the pool. When a project comes up, the department chooses a business to contract for the work. If the project’s cost is below a set price, the department can simply contract with one of the approved businesses.

If the project is projected to be above the price limit, the board of trustees must approve the contract.

The exact amount is currently under discussion by the board of trustees.

The pool of businesses is updated about every five years, Chadwell said.

Two big projects — new or updated roadways for NW and SE campuses — are currently using pool businesses.

NW has only one true entrance and a smaller back road entrance.

Both connect to the same main road, and during peak hours, traffic is heavy.

The NW road project is ready to start, and construction should last about three to five months, Chadwell said.

The SE Campus road and signal light installation is further behind, but Chadwell said he expected the project to move to the designers by mid-November.

“We do a pretty good job, I think, of maintaining our system,” Chadwell said.

 

 
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