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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Break Time is Work Time at WCC

Twilight will cast a lonely shadow on the sidewalks and hallways of WCC over the winter break from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1. And while the energy level of an otherwise bustling campus is significantly reduced, there will be plenty going on behind the scenes.

"We're the guardians of campus and will use the time to inspect and test the mass communication system in our buildings," said Ron Schebil, director of Campus Safety and Security. "We'll be setting off all the bells and whistles that would otherwise disrupt operations when the College is open. We'll also patrol regularly to make sure that systems like heating, lighting, plumbing, and fire protection are still working properly.

“We ask staff if they are going to be on campus over the break that they let Security know,” Schebil said. “We don't want to scare them, and we don't want them to scare us if we aren't expecting someone in that building."

Dispatchers and patrol officers will have plenty of company on campus throughout the break. General maintenance and construction-related projects are planned for almost every building, according to Todd Bishop, facilities project manager.

"Contractors will be repainting and rewiring data drops and installing new carpeting and ceiling tiles where needed," Bishop said. "There will be some demo[lition] work and reconfiguration of office space, and we'll be replacing a portion of the domestic water pipes in the Student Center building.

"We've used the downtime for projects like these over the last nine years," Bishop said. "We can work three shifts straight, in effect getting three days’ work done in one day, and we can make as much noise and stir up as much dust as necessary without disturbing or displacing anyone."

Having downtime to inspect the utility systems that run nonstop throughout the school year is important to Beau Burgen, who manages mechanical and electrical systems at the College. During the break, Burgen and his team will inspect operations to ensure that when the doors open in January classes are warm, the air is fresh, and lights and water are available when needed.

"Over the break we're going to zero in on our electrical consumption," said Burgen. "To do that we're installing new meters to monitor usage, work we can't do when classes are in session. We think of ourselves as the backbone of the institution. It's our job to keep things going and in good working order. This is the best time to perform preventive maintenance so we don't have a mishap down the road. And I enjoy the peace and quiet of campus before the storm (of a new semester)."

"The campus feels crisp, like a dry-cleaned suit waiting to be donned," said Francisco Roque, a UNIX administrator who monitors WCC computer systems over the break and troubleshoots issues related to them. "IT Services requires these quieter times for hardware upgrades and patches to key components such as Blackboard. We recognize people will still be impacted, but we look for these windows as the time when the fewest people will be negatively affected."

Roque said that the College's partnership with a national trade union requires that its online testing system housed on campus be up and running around the clock, particularly during the last few days of December. And some WCC faculty use the break time to get work done online for their upcoming classes.

Winter break is a quiet time for grounds staff as well. Though they will continue to maintain the parking lot and sidewalk adjacent to the Health & Fitness Center, which is open during the break, they will work on an as-needed basis for the rest of campus.

"Since we'll have contractors on site we need to make sure they have access to the buildings if it snows, so we'll have a skeleton crew on call," said Rick Westcott, grounds manager. "The last couple of years haven't required a lot on our part over the break, but I remember one year when we worked seven days straight clearing snow. Basically, it all depends on the weather for us."

And while weather may be the determining factor for who works and who doesn't in some areas of campus over the break, it has no effect on the hours or the routine of the men and women in Campus Safety and Security.

"It's dark, cold, empty, and lonely on campus for people who work on the high-profile holidays, like Christmas and New Year’s," said Schebil. "Security personnel sacrifice their time away from their family to keep the campus safe, and we're grateful for that.”

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