LAS CRUCES — When many workplaces began closing in March 2020 and New Mexicans were told to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, not everyone had the opportunity to retreat and reduce its risks. Many employees of New Mexico State University’s facilities and services department were tasked with maintaining the fort and working around the clock to maintain the campus.
“We still had to stay here as essential employees and maintain building maintenance,” said NMSU F&S mechanical shop supervisor Danny Aguirre. “The systems were still working and there was no one here other than facilities and services.”
Aguirre has been with the team since 2007. He said the biggest hurdle at the start of the pandemic was continuing to work and lead the team amid so many unknowns of the virus. He and other longtime shop employees relied on each other more than ever.
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“It’s more respect for each other as colleagues,” he said. “I think in that regard it plays a big part in terms of teamwork. They know that I try to support them in everything they do and how they do it. We try to ensure that the quality and expectations we try to deliver are there and exceptional.
Another longtime employee is HVAC manager Sabino Ramirez, who has worked for NMSU F&S since 2003. He said that when the virus started affecting more people on campus, it started to affect the workload of work.
“There were times when students tested positive for COVID-19, and we had to reschedule days when we could fix what was broken in their dorms, and there were technicians who were probably in contact with some of them,” Ramirez said. “So that reduced our staff and gave us double the work.”
Even with increasing workloads, lending a helping hand was not an issue for this team, especially during tough times.
“We have a great group of people in this store. They come and they give 110% every day. No matter what happens, they come here to offer their service. That’s all we can ask for, and make sure we’re safe every time we enter the buildings while making sure the rest of campus is taken care of,” Aguirre said.
The team said there was always work going on below the surface, and while many didn’t notice it immediately, it didn’t stop work to make sure necessities like electricity, plumbing and water systems on campus are functioning properly.
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“There’s a lot going on underground that nobody really knows about,” said Sam Gonzales, chief plumber. “The students may not have been there, but in these buildings we are inside the tunnels fixing whatever we can. You may not have seen us, but we are working non-stop. With our workload people were getting sick or even just following regulations, we had smaller crews and that was a lot. It was triple the workload, but we made it. We stuck together. »
In February 2022, Chancellor Dan Arvizu and Vice-Chancellor Ruth Johnston visited members of the F&S team and toured department buildings. Employees were able to share details about the context of their daily tasks and provide feedback on the workflow situation, especially with the staffing issues created by the pandemic.
“We appreciate all the work that is done on a consistent basis to provide the best quality experience at NMSU for students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Arvizu said. “Getting a first-hand look at the work done by this team has been very eye-opening, and their hard work is seen and appreciated by all of us in the NMSU community.”
While they continue to adapt to change in many ways, one thing will remain constant for this team.
“We will continue the teamwork,” Aguirre said. “We try to do everything we can to make sure we provide the safest possible environment for people to come to work.”
Watch a quick video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Pp6h8Oons8M.
Tatiana Favela writes for New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications and can be reached at 575-646-3221 ext. 7953, or by email at [email protected]