Feature Article - October 2014
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More Consideration Needed for Long-Term Facility Upkeep

By Deborah L. Vence

A Plan in Place

About four years ago in El Paso, Texas, when the city's park and facility maintenance were transferred from the parks department to general services, a standard of care for outdoor park facilities was established.

"It's not so much best management, but minimum standards. We talk about irrigation and base it on geographic needs. We do visual checks on a monthly and weekly basis. On a bi-annual basis, we try to do a full audit of the 230 parks we have," said Joel W. McKnight, CPRP, CGCS, deputy general services director for the city of El Paso.

McKnight noted that one of the most important things about maintenance is to be thinking at least 30 days out. "It will affect how those sports fields look in the fall," he said. "It's a direct reflection of how it comes out in the spring. We have focused on planning proactively 30 to 90 days out."

What's more, to help ensure the city's parks and fields are kept up on a regular basis, a work order system was established and implemented in early spring of this year. The system helps track management inventory, manpower and hours worked.

"If there is a certain park, whether a play system that's there or football fields, we feel like we are putting in an enormous amount of time, so we can filter through with the work order system," McKnight explained. "That's the best thing managers can do today is to have a credible system. You can utilize Excel spreadsheets, if you are in a larger system, and if you have at least 50-plus parks, with a work order system everything can be kept in a database. It's so much more economical. With a work order system, you are being very objective. It's truly quantitative, not qualitative.

For instance, "Let's say that you are out at one of our parks, maybe a chain is broken on a swing. A citizen can put in a concern or work request [into the work order system]," he said.

Residents can log into a link, sign in and put in their concern, and then see what the progress is on their request.

"With our new web-based system, you don't have to be a part of our internal network. Private citizens can go online. They can go online and see the progress toward the request. They could call in, and we would still put it into the work order system," he explained. "But, in my opinion, this gives them more ownership in the whole process."

If a citizen's concern involves a simple fix, work supervisors will be sent out into the field to repair the problem. In more involved repairs that are more expensive, however, the problem might have to go through planning and capital funding. "For us, it has to meet a certain dollar threshold," McKnight said.

"I think it's a transparent system because they [residents] are directly involved," he added. "Part of it was seeing a way to maximize technology, and we saw it as an opportunity to reach out to younger generations."