July 25, 2023
By Michael King
Hefty work in the summer heat is hard, but someone has to get it done. From maintenance work on residence halls to lawn care on the grounds, classroom refreshes and construction on campus, UNT staff members give it their all to get ready for fall.
“We're the team that's out in it when it feels like 115 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Kelly Frailey, senior maintenance manager for Facilities’ grounds department.
The grounds team is responsible for making the campus look its best outdoors. The department covers a wide area of services, including landscaping, pest control and even concrete walkways.
“There’s always some kind of concrete work to be done,” Frailey says. “There's a lot of movement, a lot of cracking, new stuff coming in, old stuff going out. So concrete's always doing something.”
During summer break, grounds crews get a chance to beautify the campus with less foot traffic. They can clean up trash and recycling faster and focus on lawn care.
“With most of the students off campus, we can just mow and get caught up,” Frailey says. “Then, as the heat of the summer comes in, grass starts going dormant so we can actually keep up with the lawns.”
With the lawns taken care of, there’s more space for landscaping. For instance, the grounds team recently updated the flower beds at Honors Hall, replacing plants that died in winter.
“You can take a great landscape, and somewhere between 5 to 10 years, it gets tired and just looks bleh,” Frailey says. “That's when we'll come in and completely rehab it to make it fresh.”
Even through the intense heat, the grounds department is always working to make the campus lush and beautiful.
RESIDENCE AND DINING HALLS
Before the tide of incoming freshmen arrives, the residence halls need freshening up. Facilities’ auxiliary maintenance team, in collaboration with the Housing custodial staff, works around the clock during the summer to get UNT’s 15 residence halls and seven sorority houses ready for Move In Day.
The department’s senior maintenance manager, Robin Melendez Martin, calls it their "Super Bowl" – the time they give it their all so that students have the best conditions when arriving for the fall semester.
“This year we had a compressed schedule,” she says. “We had to be done by July 22.”
That was to accommodate the earlier start date for fall classes due to the brand-new week-long Fall Break for students.
In addition to tending to the residence halls, the auxiliary maintenance group also works to maintain UNT’s five dining halls. For residence halls, they work on repairs and improvements to plumbing, lighting and even the doors. In dining halls, they must deal with other types of wear and tear, such as replacing tile and fixing countertops.
“Eagle Landing is so heavily used,” Melendez-Martin says. “They could put about 10,000 people through in a week.”
Even though the timeline is tight, and the work is vast, auxiliary maintenance always manages to pull through.
In 2022, they repaired more than 500 door-related issues, changed 1,700 filters, and checked on 3,400 units and vents — and did it well.
“Last year we had two credible reported issues,” Melendez-Martin says. “4,020 rooms and only two issues, so that was pretty good on our part.”
As a result of their hard work, the auxiliary department was nominated for the Outstanding Department award this summer.
CONSTRUCTION AND CLASSROOMS
While auxiliary maintenance works on the residence and dining halls, the construction department works to get the academic buildings ready. The department takes care of renovations and construction on campus for the non-residential facilities.
When it comes to renovations, rather than working on all buildings at once, construction completes them on a case-by-case basis.
“There’s typically a need that either arises from the department itself or from leadership planning,” says Thanh Nguyen, the campus planning manager. “We review it and then it’s assigned to either an estimator or a project manager.”
After a review, and if funding is available, the project is picked up and scheduled. Based on scope and complexity, the completion time can range from a couple of weeks to a full year.
“In the summer, we have to get it done within a certain timeline,” Nguyen says. “If it bleeds into the fall, we have to either work at nighttime or control our noise level.”
One major project is renovations at the Coliseum, where construction is updating the life safety features of the arena. Designed to protect and evacuate the people within, these features include sprinkler systems and emergency generators.
“The Coliseum is a shared project,” Nguyen says. “We’ve coordinated with the Registrar to make sure there’s a way that we can finish the project quickly without disrupting New Student Orientation.”
Other construction projects have included Chilton Hall, which underwent renovations for a television production studio for the journalism program; the Eagle Student Services Center, which will combine student services such as Financial Aid & Scholarships, Registrar and Student Accounting into one resource center; and The Market by Clark Bakery, which is now open.
While the major projects are underway, classrooms across campus also are freshened up during the summer.
“Summer is our biggest window to get all of our classrooms refreshed,” Nguyen says. “Since the student population is smaller, it’s easier to park and get around campus, which allows us to complete projects faster.”
Touch-ups for classrooms can include updating furniture, repainting walls and updating the AV systems. And the custodial teams work tirelessly to make sure the classrooms and buildings shine.
With all of the rooms cleaned and refreshed, UNT’s halls will be ready and waiting for students, faculty and staff this fall.