The Man that Keeps Middlebury Moving

By Joe Flaherty

While some students claim to have filled out a work order, the work of the Facilities Services staff that keeps Middlebury running smoothly often happens under the radar. As a result, many students do not know the extent of Facilities’ operations.

“I think the magnitude and the time we spend would be the most surprising thing that I think people would find,” said Wayne Hall, Facilities Maintenance Supervisor for carpenters, painters, and locksmiths.

The trades that fall under Facilities’ purview include carpentry, plumbing, heating, landscaping, electrical, an auto shop, car rentals, night watch and waste management — not to mention snow removal. That magnitude is apparent from even a brief tour of the Facilities building.

The first point of contact students have with Facilities happens at a front office.

“All phone and computer information comes through the control desk and the intention is to have it funnel through here so we don’t miss anything,” said Hall. The control desk prints work orders based off that information.

Most of the staff carry two-way radios so they can be contacted immediately.  A corridor with offices of management personnel and an IT staffer is next to the control desk. An additional room in that hallway is the plan room, with large metal filing cabinets with original floor plans of various buildings.

“All of the buildings from when they were constructed have all their plans here – electrical, everything,” said Hall. “If we have questions this is our resource for checking in history.”

One of Hall’s responsibilities is managing the locksmiths.

“We have a full lock shop here,” said Hall near the entrance to the office where locksmiths solve broken locks.  “All the keys you need, all the keys we need, they do it here.”

The locksmith shop is also an example of how the work of the Facilities staffers is evolving all the time.

“Now we are going install more keypad locks,” Hall said. “Each year we are trying to do more and more so we rely less on keys and more on combo.”

A large table next to the lock room is where staff repairs windows, screens, and window shades.

While the Facilities staff does most of the work that is needed, contractors are occasionally brought in. Chimney repair, masonry and other major painting projects are handled by contractors who are contacted by a Facilities staffer specializing in outsourcing work.

Downstairs, custodial services staff can pick up their radios from a wall of equipment and keys. According to Hall, some of them report in at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. to clean buildings when no one is using them.

“Our service time used to be very shrunk but now expectations with the way the world is and schedules it has really broadened,” said Hall.

The carpentry shop, near Hall’s office, has a box with the name of each staffer with work orders in them.

The plumbing department is headquartered in a cavernous room where above a conference table are shelves of stock supplies and uniforms. The paint shop, close by, has two hockey goals on large tables that are being painted in anticipation of the hockey season.

By the end of a short walk through the building the broad range of tasks completed by Facilities is clear.

Hall began working for Facilities in 1994. “It’s been a good learning experience,” he said. “I’ve got a great group of guys with a wide range of skills and aptitudes. We’ve got a great group. We all complement each other and work as a team.”

Hall also coordinates with getting tenants off-campus since many faculty live off campus in college-owned housing that require Facilities staff to repair. He also said he has the advantage of being able to interact with students.

One of the staff members working under Hall is Ed DeMatties, a maintenance carpenter who has worked at Middlebury since 1990. DeMatties is also on the emergency response team for confined space rescue, trained to rescue people trapped in elevators, manholes or other spaces where Facilities works.

On Friday, he could be found jetting around campus in a green John Deere Gator. The first stop was an unoccupied room in Stewart Hall where DeMatties had to install a new window shade.

“This used to be a lounge here,” said DeMatties, pointing to a room adjacent to the one where he was working.  “I put this wall in and installed that door.  We did that just a couple weeks ago.”

DeMatties said Facilities makes a point to be both as efficient and non-disruptive as possible when working on student rooms. This time, a piece to repair the shade was missing.

“You think you have everything and you get all the way up there and you’re missing one thing,” he said. But I’ll be back and this room is empty so it’s not a real rush.”

A minute later, DeMatties’ two-way radio crackled to life with a call about 51 Main’s basement hot water heater leaking. “Plumbers get more stuff like that,” he said. “They all carry radios. I’m the only one in our shop besides Wayne who carries a radio.”

After evaluating the Stewart room and determining he needed more parts, DeMatties selected the next work order.  After taking the Gator back to the Facilities building to pick up a door stop, he went back to Stewart to install it in another student room to prevent a cabinet from hitting a wall mounted sprinkler when opened.

DeMatties said they see a lot of student damage work orders come in.

“Usually after the weekend,” said DeMatties. “This year I haven’t seen much at all.”  DeMatties added with a laugh that it was hopefully a part of the learning process.

Having worked at the College for over 20 years, DeMatties has seen his fair share of projects on campus, including a repair of all the sinks in the bathrooms of Hadley and Milliken Halls.  “I came up with a design to replace them,” said DeMatties.

“Hopefully now they should last a long time,” he said.

Commencement used to take place behind Forest Hall, but when it was moved to Voter Hall, DeMatties helped arrange the setup for the ceremony and put the flags atop Voter.

“I went to school for architecture and so they had me come up with the plan for the seating layout and so it was kind of cool I got to do that,” said DeMatties. “Now they come to me for questions.”

Aside from his work on campus, he put his training in architecture to use when he designed and built his own house. After successfully installing a doorstop on the wall, it was over to the Mahaney Center for the Arts to pick up a framed poster of the upcoming Fine Arts events to be installed in Axinn.  DeMatties deftly measured an area on the wall by the entrance to the building and screwed in the hangers for the poster.

DeMatties is also in the process of working on guardrails for beds in Voter.  “When I put the first one in, somebody else said, ‘I’ll take on too,’ and so I put two in and now somebody else has seen it, and now I’m making one for all of them.”

Although Facilities sees between 1,200 to 1,500 work orders sent to them every month, that does not mean their work is highly visible.

“A lot of the stuff we do probably doesn’t get noticed, such as in student rooms,” said DeMatties. “If the person is there, we’ll tell them we fixed it.  If they’re not there, we’ll leave a note tag inside the door telling them we were there and what we did.”

Hall echoed DeMatties’ sentiment.  “[Facilities] is behind the scenes.  Nobody realizes it until we’re called on,” he said. “Everybody plays a role whether you’re a custodian or a manger, no matter what, because the faculty and the students wouldn’t be able to do their jobs if it wasn’t clean or if the lights didn’t work. Everybody’s job, no matter what it is, is a key part of making it all work.”