Feature Article - October 2005
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One Stone at a Time

Tips for building your proactive maintenance plan

By Kelli Anderson

Right the First Time

When tropical storm Gaston hit Richmond, Va., in September 2004, Lakeside Elementary School experienced major flooding. Thankfully, a gym floor installed prior to the storm and chosen for its multipurpose advantages and moisture barrier held up beautifully. Often choosing quality products that stand up to regular use can be a maintenance blessing when the unusual happens.

Although most facilities don't have to factor tropical-storm damage into their materials and designs, a basic premise of building right and building with maintenance in mind reflects a proactive mindset.

When an area is plagued by vandalism, for example, installing automatic door locks will reduce the time and cost of having staff lock and unlock doors. Security lights, security cameras and selecting more durable materials are other proactive options that can save money in the long run.

Another proactive approach to building considers the future needs as well as the present.

"A common mistake facilities make is building a new area without assuming growth," says Mike Gilligan, general manager at Wheaton Sport Center in Wheaton, Ill. "The biggest pitfall is being shortsighted. Do it right the first time."

Setting standards

Getting beyond the "it's not my job" mentality—encouraging staff members to take pride in their work and ownership of the facility—is one major key to success experienced by a new approach to standards created in Miamisburg. Once goals are set, standards are created not according to task but according to "outcome." There is a difference.

"Ask 'yes' or 'no' questions like, 'Is the area clear of trash, graffiti and weeds?' If 'no', then get rid of them. The standard is the final result," McLaughlin says. "Asking 'What will it look like when I'm done?' isn't 'A clean bathroom.' That's too vague and subjective. We ask, 'Is it free of clogs, debris and all amenities cleaned and sanitized?' Then you develop a task to remedy it.

A copy of the Miamisburg park and recreation maintenance standards reveals checklists broken down by area with clear standards posted for each area. Athletic field turf, for example, has a "free of weeds and bare spots" standard. Tasks are listed as "spraying, fertilizing, aerating and slit seeding." Also outlined for each area are the equipment and tools, materials, safety equipment, number of personnel, and estimated man-hours needed to complete each task.

Laminated copies of all standards for all areas are in each work-crew's truck for easy reference and availability. Standards are not shut away in a idolized ivory tower but are out in the field being used each day by Miamisburg crews.