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May 23. 2014 11:39AM

Salem schools look to stay on top of maintenance issues

SALEM – One of the criticisms leveled at the school district during its successful campaign for a $75 million high school renovation concerned the district's efforts to maintain its current buildings.

“We heard a lot of criticism about our willingness, our capacity, our dedication, and our commitment to maintaining the facilities,” said Superintendent Michael Delahanty.

The superintendent said there is a distinct difference between routine maintenance and maintaining capital investments, noting that there are some mechanical systems that have a useful lifespan and need to be replaced at the end of that lifespan.

While those criticisms were not enough to stop the approval of the high school renovation project, Delahanty said the district's facilities and maintenance department has been taking some big steps in the past couple of years to make sure it stays on top of maintenance issues at all district schools.

Chief among those steps is a web-based maintenance software program that was first introduced in 2010 and which the district has increased the capabilities in the years since that introduction.

“We've had it in place since 2010 (when district elementary renovation projects were approved), but it took about a year to input all our data,” said Delahanty.

At this point, he said almost all the district's mechanical systems, plumbing systems, fire panel protection systems,and electrical systems have been put into the system.

The software keeps track of when maintenance for all those systems are needed and will electronically alert facilities and maintenance director Jack Messenheimer and his staff.

“Mr. Messenheimer will make sure that routine maintenance is done,” said Delahanty.

Since last July 1, Messenheimer said the department has received 1,132 work order requests and has completed 1,014 of them, with the remaining work orders either pending or on hold while waiting for parts.

The software system also allows everyone involved to track the status of work order requests.

“What I believe we have created is an efficient system addressing the problems that creep up anywhere when you have a physical plant getting the kind of use our schools receive,” said Delahanty.

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