Friday, January 31, 2020

Windham’s new public works building is cost-effectively increasing safety, efficiency and morale

Aaron Gant, Michael Constantine, Doug Fortier, Brian Morin, Nate Johnson, Mike Doucette and Ethan Gladish (sitting)
By Lorraine Glowczak

Public facilities are important to municipalities and their citizens as they ensure basic needs are met with the goal that it is done so in the most affordable manner. The new public works building, located on 185 Windham Center Road, officially opened its doors in April 2019, and is already demonstrating the positive economic impacts to the Town of Windham. With that comes other important contributions to both the residents and its employees.

“Since we’ve been in this new building, we’ve seen an increase in efficiency, safety – and even morale,” stated Doug Fortier, Public Works Director.

Fortier further explained that with the 30,000 square foot building which includes, but is not limited to, the wash bay, maintenance garage, men and women’s locker room, RSU14 and Public Works offices have improved productivity in more ways than one. example, Highway Supervisor, Michael Constantine’s major focus for the winter is the plow trucks. He explained how the addition of the garage has contributed to quicker response time during the start of snowstorms.

“Before the new building, we had to first load the trucks with salt, let the truck idle to warm up and defrost the windows and clean the snow off the truck,” began Constantine. “With the new building, we can have the salt loaded and parked in the bay. As soon as we get in to work, all we need to do is start the truck and leave. It could take up to or over an hour before the new building, but now we can get on the road much more quickly and do so without wasting diesel fuel by idling the trucks or damaging cold hydraulic systems. It’s a win-win situation.”

Another positive contributing factor is the large fuel tanks. “We now have a 10,000-gallon fuel pump on site,” began Constantine. “Before, we only had a 3,000-gallon tank. With larger fuel tanks, the chance of running out of fuel has been eliminated.”

The cost-savings in this upgrade has made a big difference. “Now the town is able to purchase a larger quantity of fuel at a cheaper rate,” said Fortier. “The cost-savings in just this area alone has been substantial.”

Safety is another profitable and efficiency factor as a result of the new facility. The garage is large enough to not only house a crane that moves heavy equipment but there has been the addition of vehicle lifts. “We used to crawl under the vehicles with a ‘creeper’ and lay on our backs for hours,” explained Nate Johnson, Fleet Maintenance Supervisor. “Working on a creeper underneath the vehicles was not as efficient as having a vehicle up on a lift.”

Johnson went on to say that now the maintenance crew can easily access needed tools immediately and are able to assist one another when met with challenges. “There is so much to know about mechanical repair that not one person can have all the knowledge,” Johnson said. “Now, the RSU14 and town mechanics can collaborate our expertise in a certain area and share specialty tools, which is another cost-savings to both the school and the town.”

As for the crane that has been added to the garage area, it comes with many benefits besides safety. “The most important benefit with the addition of the crane is that it only takes one person to move a heavy object,” began Johnson. “Before, we had to use either a forklift or a bobcat, which would require between three or four people to help guide the driver. Now, we can move heavy equipment quickly and safely.”

Another time and cost-saving addition to the new facility is the indoor vehicle wash. Since the public works building sits next to a waterway, the runoff from washing vehicles outside is environmentally detrimental and is against DEP standards. Therefore, the town made arrangements with the Town of Gorham Public Works to occasionally wash vehicles in their wash bays.

“Now that we have our own wash bays, we able to clean the vehicles much more frequently, thus potentially extending the life of the vehicle and helping to eliminate premature repairs due to rust and corrosion.” Stated Fortier. Gant, Assistant Transportation Director for RSU14 added that the mechanics for both the RSU14 and public works are able to do more inhouse repairs on the buses due to having more workspace, relying less on outside vendors. Some outside vendors can charge up to $120 per hour.
The Building and Grounds Department is also seeing the benefits of the new facility. “The town is able to purchase product in bulk due to the fact there is more storage space, leading to a better price” stated Building and Grounds Supervisor, Brian Morin.

Perhaps the most unexpected positive outcome of the public works building is increased morale among the employees. “There are so many ‘little’ things that have contributed to increase self-esteem and optimism,” began Constantine. “There are now male and female bathrooms, the addition of locker rooms that come with mesh lockers that will help dry our clothes when they get wet – and most of all – we now have showers. During long duration snow storms of up to 20 to 40 hours, crewmembers can take showers and change into fresh clothes. Mechanics can also shower when they are exposed to contaminants, such as oil and gas, during repairs. 

Constantine added that even having a breakroom has increased morale. “We actually get to communicate with one another and help each other out when there are work challenges. No one feels isolated. We’ve become almost like a family and this has made a lot of difference in our working lives.”

Nadeau continued, “We are investing in our future, creating a blueprint of success for the town and those who live here.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.