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Saturday, Jan 28, 2023

Growing Pains: Housing maintenance on campus

Mercer's Center for Career Services and Professional Development is located on the third floor of the Connell Student Center. Archived photo from The Cluster staff.
Mercer's Center for Career Services and Professional Development is located on the third floor of the Connell Student Center. Archived photo from The Cluster staff.

If you’re a Mercer student, there’s a good chance you’ve submitted a maintenance request for something broken or not working in your dorm room before. Even if you haven’t made a request, you’ve probably had someone from maintenance come to do routine checkups such as checking light bulbs or replacing filters for your air conditioner.

According to several students’ experiences, maintenance requests can take an extended period of time to be completed, if they are done at all.

“We made the [maintenance] request in November, and they came in like December,” said Anaise Higgins, a sophomore living in the Adams Winship apartments. “And they didn’t do anything about it until January.”

Amanda Hall, a Mercer sophomore living in Sherwood had several issues that took a long time to get resolved. She made a maintenance request when she and her suitemates’ toilet was so clogged it started overflowing.

“Another time when we first got here, the room was infested with roaches and they never came to spray or anything,” Hall said. “I called [Residence] Life like thirty times because there were thirty roaches in an hour we were seeing. It was bad. And they never came.”

Hall had another bad experience at the beginning of this year with maintenance. Her shower was leaking, and when she returned to her dorm and founding someone fixing it, she said that she thanked him for coming out and asked what he was doing and that he then told her to “get out.”

Timeliness and communication have been common issues addressed by students who have made maintenance requests before.

Jeff Takac, the director of housing, expressed that there are some issues with communication with students and in the amount of manpower of the maintenance department.

Another factor that can slow turnaround times is the fact that there are only three people running housing maintenance. Takac said they have noticed this though and are looking into potentially hiring a fourth person to help run maintenance.

“In the beginning of the year, it’s a little bit slower,” Takac said. “I want to say they try to estimate 48 hours; they’d like everything done in 48 hours.”

There are several students on campus who have said that maintenance has been very good for them, filling their requests quickly and without issue.

Takac said that this estimated window of time begins after a work form is generated from a maintenance request, which may take a day or two depending on when it is filed. This takes place everywhere on campus, not just for students in dorms.

“I think overall maintenance does a pretty good job of turning stuff around,” Takac said.

Maintenance is run from the physical plant behind the phase five lofts, and they handle maintenance for all of campus, including dorms, classrooms and offices.

Donald Hicks, the Director of Facilities at the Mercer Physical Plant, said in an email that they also have to prioritize some issues over others.

“We try to prioritize the work orders as they come in,” Hicks said. “We handle Life Safety & Security and emergency issues as soon as they are received. Others are prioritized and are completed as quickly as possible.”

He and Takac also said that things can take longer if maintenance has to order a part for a request such as a pipe when one is broken or a component for a thermostat.

There have been experiences from students as well that reflect this, but many of these experiences have been frustrating or confusing to students because of a lack of communication.

“My room hasn’t had much difficulties or anything. [The] only problem was that one time our AC broke. And so it kind of took a while for us to get the request in and have someone fix it,” said Aditi Dave, a sophomore living in Shorter Hall. “Right now it’s completely fine. But otherwise, like while getting the request, it did take longer than what we expected.”

It took about two weeks before maintenance came out and fixed the issue with her air conditioning, and she was never notified of anything regarding the request.

“They just kind of came in out of nowhere. They didn’t really notify us about anything,” Dave said.

She said maintenance has been good since and that this was her only “bad” experience with them.

“I have had numerous discussions with my team members about the need to keep our campus customers informed about work order progress,” Hicks said in an email. “Communication breakdown is a continual problem that we are trying to resolve.”


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