Fort Bragg community may notice a delay in response time if they recently called the installation’s Directorate of Public Works for repairs to plumbing and air conditioning units.
This change in service may be even more noticeable now that scorching summer temperatures continue to grip the state. But according to DPW officials, their hands are tied and the keyword around Fort Bragg is “patience.”
“Our services are curtailed from what we generally provide and that’s for all buildings not just new buildings. We’re responsible for maintaining all the real property on Fort Bragg, with the exclusion of Family housing.
“As a result of some downsizing and a hiring freeze, we have stopped doing the bulk of our preventive maintenance — that’s the stuff that you and I would do in our home to make sure we do not have catastrophic failure later,” explained Christine Hull, DPW Operations and Maintenance Division chief.
Hull said DPW has diverted some of its employees who normally would be doing preventive maintenance to now performing primarily reactive maintenance for emergency and urgent-type work.
She explained that customers should still call in, but they should be prepared for a longer response time.
“As a result of the staffing shortages, what we see is those time will drag out. It takes a little bit longer either because we don’t have the right mechanic or enough mechanics to do the job or the purchasing agents — the guys who go out and buy the parts to fix your air conditioner,” Hull said.
She said priority 1 calls may take two days instead of the usual 24 hours.
“If we’re going to really fail our mission anywhere, it’s generally in those that take 30 days because if somebody calls in and we have a priority matrix, it isn’t who calls it in, it’s really the type of work that needs to be done. There are special people, but really, it’s the type of work that is required.
“If it is truly a priority 1, that means it is an emergency, it can be a life-health-safety emergency or it can be an emergency for that building with either the mechanical system or for the people who are in that building,” Hull added.
She pointed out that a priority 1 call for an air conditioning problem would be no air conditioning in an entire barracks/building or in the wing of that building.
“Any entire building that we don’t have a commodity or utility provided, such as the water is out, all of the toilets in the building are backed up or the air is out, it’s considered a priority 1 call,” she explained.
Hull pointed out that priority 2 calls are those that require response within seven days.
“It’s not a life-health -safety emergency, but it’s a repair that needs to be done,” she said.
Priority 3 calls are those that are considered routine.
She also pointed out that air conditioning issues in office building are considered priority 3 calls, whereas they may be priority 1 or 2 calls for barracks, depending on the severity.
“We don’t sleep there, we go home and go to a place that might have air conditioning,” she said.
Hull stressed that community members should call in any issues so that the problems are not exacerbated by having to wait longer. In terms of cooling for locations with non-functioning air conditioners, she recommended:
• keeping doors and windows closed
• if your room has blinds, keep them closed as it helps to keep the sun out
• making sure that your thermostat is set, so that you’re not constantly adjusting it
“What we can expect in these buildings is about a 20-degree differential,” Hull explained. “So, if it’s 80 degrees outside, you’re going to have a nice cool room. If it’s 100 degrees outside and that commercial air conditioner can only cool 20 degrees, you’re still going to feel warm inside.
“You might only get it to 80 degrees, but you mitigate that by closing the windows, doors and using ceiling fans and it will still be considerably cooler than it is outside,” she said.
Hull also talked about the recent increase in backlog work orders and the fact that some repairs may eventually be done by outside sources, for which, DPW uses its government purchase card (credit card).
“As far as GPC is concerned, where we don’t have people, we may often hire somebody from the community to do the work. So they may not see someone from DPW actually coming out to do the work. It may actually be a small business vendor from out in the local community, but one of our mechanics or work leaders estimates the work and then does the quality control,” she said.