Fred Montano, Acting Manager
(35 years with APS, recently appointed acting manager) 44 technicians and support personnel
Grounds Craft shops include Heavy Equipment Operators; Landscape Maintenance which includes Tree Trimming; Weed and Exterior Pest Control; Irrigation; Grounds Safety Inspection; Water Resources; Paving; Portable Maintenance; and Playground Maintenance and Repair.
The M&O Grounds Department supports student success and achievement by delivering safe, healthy, appealing, and highly functional outdoor common areas, playgrounds, sports fields, and learning environments. And in meeting this need for students, Grounds maintenance also contributes to the preservation of the District’s real estate. Lastly, the upkeep of all facilities’ curb appeal inspires a sense of school pride felt by the students and their parents, teachers and staff, and the neighboring community.
Portable maintenance technicians provide exterior maintenance and access (including ADA access) to approximately 1,600 portable classrooms. The Landscape and Irrigation Shops maintain and irrigate the District’s 360 plus acres of athletic fields (both natural grass and synthetic turf), over 150 playgrounds, and tens of thousands of trees, drought tolerant landscaping, ornamental lawns, school summer gardens, and other vegetation.
Playground technicians are dedicated to providing safe playground equipment and play areas for kindergarten and elementary school kids. Regularly scheduled inspections and repairs are performed on a wide assortment of thousands of pieces of International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) certified playground equipment. The Shop’s technicians — all skilled and licensed welders — also lend their welding skills to support other M&O Departments’ needs.
Highly trained and licensed (by the NM Department of Agriculture) horticultural pest control technicians safely exterminate relentless weeds and insects that are pesky at minimum and a health hazard if left to proliferate. So much more than merely the “bug crew,” they are educated in all areas of both approved and restricted chemical use. NMDA conducted continuing education courses keep technicians up-to-date on the appropriate use and safety procedures regarding new chemical products.
The Heavy Equipment Shop provides support to other M&O technicians, such as plumbers and electricians, in performing repairs that would otherwise impede the education process. They also handle heavy equipment-required jobs with regards to erosion control, ADA access, and snow/ ice removal. In addition, the Shop is responsible for maintaining the District’s paved surfaces, grading dirt tracks for student safety, and the collection and delivery of materials — such as sand, wood chips, and fill-dirt — to playgrounds and other areas.
Formalized Snow Watch Patrol and Removal Plan
A number of APS Divisions work in unison during the winter months in certifying that roads are passable for school buses and parents driving students to school during snow storms. As such each Division simply followed their established and routine procedures. However, in December 2014, one unified Snow Watch Patrol and Removal Plan brought the various procedures followed by each Division under one umbrella. While the previous method worked just fine, a formalized plan removes any chance of Divisions duplicating efforts or worse yet, a necessary action not taken due to the presumption that another Division was seeing to it. Although the plan is applicable District wide, it is most relevant to the four schools located in the high altitude communities east of the Sandia Mountains where snow most often falls and sticks: A. Montoya and San Antonito Elementary Schools, Roosevelt Middle School, and Manzano High School. Roughly 1,500 students attend the East Mountain schools with Manzano High School represented by students from both the Albuquerque area and the East Mountains.
The APS Snow Watch Patrol is on duty beginning in the early evening in the event of a possible snow threat and is composed of M&O, APS Police, Student Transportation Services, and the Chief Operations Officer. Snow removal is carried out by Grounds Department heavy equipment operators beginning at 4:00 a.m. School custodians are responsible for shoveling snow off sidewalks and start the task between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m., depending on need.
Up-to-date information about school delays, cancellations, and early releases is available at www.aps.edu/about-us/school-delays.
Department made noteworthy progress in becoming ADA compliant
The Paving Shop addressed 122 work orders, 35.5% more than the previous year, in bringing walkways, handicap access to playgrounds, and parking lots near portable classrooms ADA compliant. While damaged paved areas that are trip hazards are tackled immediately, cracks that will eventually become perilous were addressed in the 2014-15 FY.
In addition, the Portables Shop provided handicap access ramps for portable classrooms (under FD+C), work that was formerly contracted out. The cost saving switch in utilizing in-house technicians over contractors resulted in a 64.6% increase in work over the previous year. A bit of this increase is also attributed to the Shop issuing more WOs rather than grouping tasks into one, causing WOs to be completed and closed sooner and decreasing the average number of days to close WOs by 41.7%.
All Grounds Shops’ heightened use of PM Direct increased PM work orders by 10%
The Department performed 52 more work orders in 2014-15 and corrected data entry to provide a truer picture of reactive versus PM work; reactive WOs decreased by 4.3%; and PM work increased by 10%. Most of the shift occurred in the preventive maintenance of baseball and softball fields that was previously manually scheduled but is now scheduled through PM Direct.
Pest Control technicians closing work orders in a more timely fashion
The push from management to tighten up all WO paperwork has also resulted in the timelier closing of work orders. The outdoor pest control technicians achieved a 20.2% improvement over the previous year.
PEST CONTROL OUTDOORS
New outdoor recreation and learning sites constructed at various campuses
The following schools gained new outdoor learning and playing areas in 2014-15:
- Atrisco Elementary School - Playing Field
- Mountain View Elementary School - Playing Field
- Ventana Ranch Elementary School - Playing Field
- Collect Park Elementary School - Playground
- Wherry Elementary School - Outdoor Classroom Space
- Rio Grande High School - Soccer Field
Artificial turf fields, play areas, and common areas installed at various campuses
Synthetic fields provide safe and durable play areas that are cost and time efficient to maintain as well as require not a drop of precious water! The following Elementary Schools received new synthetic fields in 2014-15: Adobe Acres, Chamiza, Duranes, Eugene Field, John Baker, Lavaland, Montezuma, North Star, Petroglyph, Seven Bar, Wherry, and Whittier. Ornamental artificial turf was also installed at the common areas at McKinley and John Adams Middle Schools, and the entrance area at Alamosa Elementary School.
John Adams Middle School’s outdoor space upgraded and beautified
In addition to the artificial turf installed in the patio area (see above Highlight Table) a shade structure with seating and an outdoor classroom were added. A new irrigation system was also installed at the school’s orchard consisting of apple, peach, and pear trees.
New landscaping constructed at Inez Elementary School
A common area, previously a purely utilitarian holding pond for run-off water, was transformed into a beautiful and inviting patio space that includes tables fashioned out of tree stumps and seating surrounded by large ornamental rocks and boulders. The significantly improved space also serves in redirecting run-off water.
Various grounds improvements made at select sites
- Dolores Gonzales Elementary School - Expanded space in portable classroom area
- Robert F. Kennedy Charter Middle School - Added new grass and artificial turf areas
- Chaparral Elementary School - Expanded staff parking lot
- James Monroe Middle School - upgraded running track from dirt to rubber surface (more comfortable, attractive, and safer)
Grey water irrigation systems installed at Wilson Stadium and Milne Stadium (Field II)
The newly installed grey water systems save water and money as grey water is considerably less expensive than potable water. In addition, this eliminated the need for backflows thereby boosting water pressure without increasing volume.
Eldorado High School received major improvements
A seriously needed new campus wide drainage system was installed and the parking lot was resurfaced by FD+C (Capital Master Plan). The improvements were overdue at this northeast heights school constructed in 1970.
Improved drainage system installed at Rio Grande High School
The new system now drains onto the baseball field without the puddling that previously occurred.
Highland High School’s running track upgraded
The school’s timeworn rubber track was badly cracking and in some areas completely pulled off the ground. The new rubber track with fresh striping is safer to run on and looks 100% better.
Re-seeded fields at select schools
Bare areas on natural grass fields were aerated, re-seeded, fertilized, and top dressed on the football fields at Volcano Vista, Cibola, and La Cueva High Schools, and playing fields at E.G. Ross, Alamosa, Armijo, and Dennis Chavez Elementary Schools. It was a major maintenance task undertaken on these highly used fields.
New smart phone app for the Playground Shop saves time and enhances efficiency and accuracy
The smart phones with a Play Pod app allows for easy and efficient scanning of barcodes on playground equipment and sending data directly to the computer database. Photos of broken equipment parts can also be taken and forwarded to manufacturers with barcode information for repair price quotes or ordering correct replacement parts. Approximately 40% of the District’s Playworld Systems brand playground equipment is already outfitted with barcodes that details all the specifics of each piece of equipment. Previously the time intensive tracking of this information was performed manually. With this new technology crews are able to work smarter and much more efficiently.
New PM program
- Winterize irrigation systems (fall) − shut down system, drain backflows, and inspect to ensure heat sources that prevent freezing are working. This process is reversed in the spring.
- Watering trees and bushes takes place when warmer weather allows for irrigation systems to be used during the winter.
PM programs (on-going)
Grounds and Fields:
- Grading dirt tracks
- Irrigation controllers’ verification and testing (spring and fall)
- Landscape maintenance of baseball and softball fields (corrective action at infields and infield lips)
- Playground equipment audits (cut back from twice a year, then to annually, and currently down to once every 14 months due to scheduling work issues)
- Grounds safety inspections and parking lot surveys
- Spring and summer fertilization of all athletic fields and ornamental grass (February through March and again May through July fertilization proved to be more drought-tolerant)
- Pre-emergent weed control on bare ground and all perimeter fencing to prevent weeds from germinating (weed control not used on fields for safety reasons)
- Aerating and re-seeding (and top dressing where needed) athletic fields (cut back on frequency from twice a year to once except on football fields which are aerated and re-seeded twice a year)
- Fields inspection of sprinkler heads and bare spots (twice a week when possible spring through fall)
- Inspection of tennis courts and paved tracks (resurfacing and other maintenance as needed)
- Parking lot asphalt inspection and repairs, from minor to complete resurfacing and pothole patching
- Softball and baseball fields grooming (annually remove buildup of clay on grass; repair clogged and broken sprinklers; raise or lower sprinklers as needed; clean running paths between bases)
- Annual summer grub inspection and spraying of athletic fields throughout the District (June through September) Grub control program minimizes damage to athletic fields and lessens repairs
- Clean outside storm drains and jet action pipes every spring prior to monsoon season
- Sweep all District parking lots every summer and clean following rain storms
- Mow athletic fields at high schools twice a week (seasonal) and at other locations once a week (now PM Direct scheduled)
- Irrigation system route inspections (weekly)
Playgrounds and fall zones:
- Playground safety inspection (annually)
- Playground maintenance (annually)
- Maintain proper condition of protective fall surfaces (rake woodchips)
- Maintain condition of sand (rototill, level)
- Tractor sweep the six foot parameter equipment pod
- Grounds lost five technicians in 2014-15 which strained the already scantily staffed Department (a pest control technician, a heavy equipment operator, a landscaping Assistant Supervisor, and two irrigation techs). Other technicians covered for the vacant positions at the cost of paying overtime and obviously adding to their work load. Temporary personnel were hired to address the eruption of weeds and mosquitos flourishing from the generous monsoon season. The wet conditions also invited grubs to natural grass athletic fields and ornamental areas. All vacancies are expected to be filled in the near future.
- Many trees were lost due to gale winds toppling them like match sticks and an infestation of bugs devouring a few that were still standing. (Note history of tree WOs below). Contractors were engaged to clear out the fallen and dead trees and the Department is now faced with a challenge to replace them.
Re-seeding fields is regularly defied by schools. Re-seeding natural grass is necessary as sports activity will inevitably wear away grass. In this case the field is “offline” – not available for use until the reseeded area has fully regrown. While re-seeding is performed off season to avoid conflicting with scheduled activities, students will still shut off the water necessary to keep the re-seeded ground wet and proceed to use the offline fields. Fencing is jumped and even torn down to access the vulnerable fields. In addition to the students negating the efforts of restoring their fields, they also cancel the water use variances that grant special allowances of watering these areas daily for 45 consecutive days. Anytime grass fields are taken offline, it is a challenge for M&O and the schools since fields are also outdoor classrooms.
Playground Shop struggling with staying ahead of PM while reactive work intensifies. As shown below, the Shop’s PM work orders were nearly equal with reactive in 2011. Since then reactive WO’s have increased 48.4% while PM has fallen 52%. Just since the previous fiscal year, reactive work rose 18.4% and PM dropped 20.5%. A reversal of this trend is preferred but not possible with a workforce number that holds steady while the District adds playgrounds. Though it can certainly be argued that dead trees don’t halt education as a broken water line or a mechanical failure would, the Division aspires to resolve this issue.
Status of 2014-15 Goals
- Complete the upgrade in progress of the running track at Highland High School with a new rubber surface and subsurface. Completed, note Highlight above
- Repair or replace broken equipment. In progress
- Transition at least two ornamental grass areas from independent manual irrigation system to computer controlled system. Not completed due to lack of funding; moved to 2015-16 goals. (Transitioning irrigation from manual to computer control is also incorporated into campus rebuilds.)
- Begin transitioning irrigations systems District wide. Current systems require system control keypads that are no longer being manufactured. The Irrigation Supervisor and staff are currently researching options for updated technology with improved technical support that will replace the current MIR 5000 system. In progress. For now, as the scorpio units (that communicate with the valves that open and close the water flow) malfunction, they are being replaced with Motorola or Ace units as appropriate in keeping the systems highly functional.
- Transition from domestic water to grey water irrigation system at Milne Stadium (Field II). Completed, see Highlight above
- Replace retired Heavy Equipment technician/operator. Completed
- Increase PM work in Irrigation Shop. Completed (4.6% increase)
- Acquire smart phones for the Playground Shop and Play Pod app to manage and send playground equipment information directly to the computer database. Completed (note Highlight above)
- Resurface playground asphalt (outside of play zones) at needed Elementary Schools.
- Resurface asphalt staff and student parking lots at needed Middle and High Schools (prioritize and schedule).
- Install a separate metered system (from MIR 5000) that taps into the main water line for use by coaches. Currently, coaches are manually accessing quick couplers connected to the main water line in watering their fields. These quick couplers are not metered nor do they communicate with the District wide MIR 5000 computerized irrigation system that automatically shuts the water off in the event of a water line break. A separate metered system that prevents the coaches from over-riding the MIR 5000 system and defeating its purpose is the solution.
- Provide Elementary School playgrounds with ADA access updates, woodchips, and sand in meeting ADA safety code (March 2012).
- Transition at least two ornamental lawns from independent manual irrigation system to computer controlled system.