Students shed light on maintenance issues on campus

 UNA student Jessie Pollard said it’s a running joke on campus that if students need something repaired in their residence halls, it will take the maintenance department at least three months to fix it.

After reporting a broken smoke detector in her residence hall last August, maintenance workers finally arrived in January to repair her smoke detector and install a new lightbulb in her room.

“The circumstances leading up to my experience with UNA maintenance were less than positive, but I commend them just the same,” she said. “They have quite a workload keeping this university running, and it says a great deal about their character if they can still manage to be civil under the pressure and demands of a growing university.”

Patrick Lindsay, a student majoring in computer science, lives in a two-bedroom building at Lion’s Den Apartments on Pine Street with fellow UNA student Jesse Faulk.

Lindsay noticed a gaping hole in his bathroom ceiling that sometimes leaks when it rains when he first moved into the apartment last July. He said he contacted the Department of Housing multiple times about the situation with no luck.

“It’s just annoying,” he said. “I’ve been over there so many times and have gotten no response. I’ve talked to (the housing coordinator) directly in person, and he said they’ve got a lot of requests and some are easy to slip by.”

Jimmy Waddell, housing coordinator in the Department of Housing, said a new online maintenance form through TMA Systems on the UNA website is available to students living in residence halls. He said the goal is to have each maintenance request responded to within 24 hours.

The form through TMA Systems is not available on Internet connections outside UNA’s, so students living in on-campus apartments with their own Internet cannot access the software at this time. Michael Gautney, director of facilities, said officials are looking into installing a Web-based form soon.

“We just got the TMA Systems form out, and we’re pleased with the way it’s working,” Waddell said. “There are gaps we still need to try to close, but, for the most part, we’re happy with the way it’s working. We still need to get students on board with it because they are still sending emails when the TMA System is already on board for them. We need to increase awareness of the system to UNA students.”

Last fall, UNA student Luke Hunter noticed his kitchen sink leaking and water spilling into the cabinet below at Lion’s Den Apartments. He realized the sink was detached from the drain and quickly contacted housing.

After several weeks of no response from officials about the maintenance issue, Hunter said workers finally arrived to fix the sink with no explanation about why the work request was delayed.

“It’s stressful to know something is wrong in your living space and you can’t do anything about it,” he said. “I know how to fix a lot of this stuff, but I’m not responsible for it, and if I messed up doing it, I would be responsible for any mistakes.”

Gautney said the best method of contact for students with maintenance issues in on-campus apartments is to call the Department of Maintenance directly. When students submit an online form through the TMA Systems, the housing department must first approve the work request before it is submitted to maintenance, he said.

Gautney said his department must prioritize certain repairs on campus if safety is an issue and that being short staffed has an impact on how quickly maintenance issues can be resolved. Maintenance receives approximately 6,000 work requests from the university each year, Gautney said.

“It all comes back to communication between attendants in the apartments, dorms, housing department and us, and how good it is handled,” he said. “Sometimes we’re good at it; sometimes we’re bad at it. With the number and size of the buildings on campus, there’s a lot of work that goes into the buildings, and we have to prioritize because of that.”

Faulk, a Lagrange Society member and professional biology major, said it took officials more than a month to replace a fluorescent light bulb in his residence hall last year. He said he is an advocate for living on campus and always encourages new students to live at UNA.

“I know (maintenance is) busy and they’ve got a million things to do on campus,” he said. “With something as small as a bulb or hole in a ceiling, anything like that can be magnified when you’re stressed out at school. If they could get to it sooner, it would make things a lot easier and smoother for students and make them stay on campus more.”

       By the numbers

Work Requests in 2010-2011 year

837 – Rivers, LaGrange, Lafayette, Rice

639 – Appleby West and East, Hawthorne, Covington

368 – Apartments

(Source: Department of Housing)