Beacon News: Older dorms cause concern; upkeep requires ‘team effort’

By Jen Rodino & Kristina Webb
News & Managing Editors

With some dormitories on the Palm Beach Atlantic University campus over 40 years old, many students worry about the conditions of their rooms.

In particular, recent concerns have been raised about Flagler Towers, built in 1964 and acquired by PBA in 1986; the Lakeview Apartments, also built in 1964 and acquired in 2004; and the Mango apartments, built between 1920 and 1935 and acquired in the 1980s.

There are 25 buildings on campus and renovations occur every year, primarily scheduled over the summer.

According to Gary Parker, associate vice president of Facilities and Construction, the weather takes a toll on the paint, which is the first line of defense to prevent leaks and other types of damage from occurring.

Periodic maintenance may also be performed by placing a work order through the MyPBA Web site.

“There have been many complaints from students about things such as a broken window screen or bugs,” Parker said. “But we get them corrected once it is brought to our attention.”

“We take the concerns of our students very seriously,” said Becky Peeling, assistant vice president for University Relations and Marketing. “If there are any problems with the buildings it is in our best interest to see that they are resolved.”

Parker said the upkeep of the buildings is really a team effort.

“It’s very important that students realize that the maintenance of the dorms in which they live is really up to them and how they keep their living environments,” Parker said. “But it is also my job to make sure if they have any issues it is being taken care of.”

According to Mike Steger, director of Physical Plant Services at PBA, once a work order is placed online it goes through an electronic system.

Steger said that not many schools allow their students open access to an electronic system like PBA’s. That’s why, he said, it’s important for students to utilize it.

“We felt our campus audience was mature enough to not abuse the system,” Steger said.

The process begins once the person placing the work order clicks “Submit” on the form. From there, the order travels to a central location, where a maintenance manager prioritizes it.

The orders are split up between two categories: emergencies, such as life safety issues or potential threats to building stability; and less immediate needs, such as a light bulb that has gone out or a broken cabinet door.

The manager then assigns the work order to an employee in the proper zone.

The school is divided up into four zones, each serviced by a group of technicians.

In some cases, a technical specialist may be assigned to fulfill the work order.

After the employee has performed the work order, he or she leaves a hangtag to let the resident know what has been accomplished, whether the work order is closed or parts are being ordered.

However, Steger acknowledged that more than one visit might be required.

“Sometimes we walk out the door and it breaks again 20 minutes after we leave,” Steger said.

In that case, it is best to immediately place another work order.

“I’d rather have an issue reported four times than not at all,” Steger said, adding that often each roommate may think the other has placed the work order, when in fact it has not been reported.

According to Steger, of the 700 to 800 total work orders fulfilled each month, customers place only 25 to 30 percent.

This means that the rest are placed by Plant Services as preventative and routine maintenance.

Steger said the average time for all work orders, which includes the large projects performed by the department, is six days.

“Living in Towers last year, I found mold in my bathroom and the carpet was not in good condition, but what school has great dorms?” said Ariel Jasmin Tucker, a PBA junior and Flagler Towers resident. “Although I learned to live with it, I just think it could be better.”

Students in Lakeview are working together to make the best of their situation, living in an older building.

“Because of the setup, Lakeview does not have a traditional lobby area,” said Kevin Abel, associate dean of students and director of Residence Life. “The Residence Life staff in the building wanted to create that type of community atmosphere by gathering in the parking lot for a time of fellowship.”

“A combination of Lakeview and Towers residents come out on Thursday nights,” said Kaitie Chasse, a resident assistant in Lakeview. “We always have about a 20-person turnout.”

Chasse added that people bring couches, play music, bake food, hang lights and often hold volleyball games to make the event, called a “Lounge,” successful.

Due to the age of the Mango apartments, they are classified as historical buildings and are included in the Mango Promenade Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Because of their historical status, any major maintenance on the buildings must meet specifications set forth by the Florida Division of Historical Resources (FDHR).

According to the FDHR Web site, these specifications include the use of historically accurate materials.

Beacon staff writer Samone Davis contributed to this article.

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