By Trevor Busch
With COVID-19 restrictions shutting down access to many town buildings and recreational opportunities, staff have been able to perform maintenance work that would otherwise be impossible while these facilities are in use under regular circumstances.
Mayor Andrew Prokop talked about how staff and departments are adjusting scheduling to take advantage of work opportunities.
“They’re doing a lot of their pool requirements and maintenance now, as opposed to what would be the fall shutdown time. Different things like that have been a plus, and keep the staff working and busy with other things as opposed to the normal routine. There’s always things to be done, so it’s just timelines, adjusting those scheduling requirements, and that seems to be working well so far. It’s just having to adapt where you need to, and carry on.”
Inside the Taber Aquafun Centre, facilities maintenance staff have been tackling a number of projects to keep the pool area in top shape.
“We’re doing quite a bit of work actually,” said Scott Chubbs, facilities maintenance manager. “Right now, at the pool, we’re grinding down all of the pool deck stairs going to our waterslide, getting all of that resurfaced and epoxy-coated again. And we painted one of the mushroom features, we got all that done. We did some tile work to the main pool deck, and in the lifeguard office we put in new ceiling tiles and some new lights. We’re doing some mezzanine repairs in our west mechanical room that has deteriorated from years of use. And we’re doing some painting in the main deck area, up on the high levels of the pool.”
Recreation director Dawn Phillips described some of the changes involved for pool staff and some more to the projects currently underway.
“We’ve got a couple of our full-time staff that are on-site still working. We’ve split them up so they’re socially-distancing and keeping everyone safe. The advantage is we can get a lot of the stuff that we would normally do during shut-down, we’re doing all that now so we’re not re-opening and then closing in September when we do our annual shut-down — we’re doing all that work now. We also ordered a few new features for the pool that I think will be a surprise for people that want to check out all the new, fun stuff we’re putting in. So it should be bright, and clean, and ready to go. We’re also doing some upgrades — we’re working on it, we’re not quite there yet — to some of our operating systems for the pool as well, like chlorine for the hot tub — just the stuff that people don’t see that keep our water clean and running well and safe.”
All projects underway have been budgeted for 2020, added Phillips, but there are advantages to accelerating the maintenance schedule.
“Everything that we’ve been doing has been actually budgeted for this year…but the advantage we have is because we’re closed, we can get everything done with out interfering with the public…everything was budgeted, so it’s just that we have been able to get it done now without impacting our operations. It’s unfortunate, of course, everything that’s going on, but it does give us the opportunity to get it done without a second closure.”
In the Taber Arena, various painting and tile replacement work is ongoing, and the town is renovating the concession facility in the lobby.
“We’re totally redoing our arena concession — the kitchen — so we’re gutting it out and redoing it with new appliances, new range hood, new flooring, new paint, so just giving it a major facelift,” said Chubbs. “In the main lobby area of the arena, we’re doing an asbestos abatement of the old plank flooring that’s in there, and we’re putting in some new sport flooring. We’re ripping out some tile in our dressing room showers, Dressing Rooms 3-4 and 5-6, we’re replacing the showers, tiles and putting in some new lights. And we’re getting the flooring replaced in the lobby going down to Randy’s gym (Bodymasters Gym) and the hallway out to the auditorium. We’re getting all the flooring replaced there, we’re putting in some sheet flooring to match the auditorium upgrade we did last year. We’ve also done a bunch of work in-house, like repainting all of our mechanical rooms and doing some fire-proofing. We’ve got some furnace replacements that we’ve already done, and some air conditioning units for the Grey Room and Green Room. For curling, my guys are actually over doing a bunch of work at curling, a bunch of painting in the main lobby area, and we’re looking at doing some upgrades to the kitchen there — some new flooring, some new paint, and some new lights.”
Arena staff have been transitioning into other roles to keep them busy in other areas of the community, according to Phillips.
“The advantage we have with the timing of this, and the fact that we live in southern Alberta, my arena crew turned into my parks crew. So we’ve started shifting them outside as much as we can — and they’re still doing the general maintenance on the inside of the building, the regular stuff we do every year, sprucing it up and cleaning it up — but we started getting into doing some upgrades to the Ken Mac compound, getting things ready at the cemetery, picking up garbage in the different parks as the snow melts — so that crew is keeping busy.”
For pool staff, the town has opened up seasonal positions to keep employees on the payroll.
“At the pool, unfortunately there’s no work for the lifeguards, but we did open up all of the seasonal parks positions to the lifeguards first — as per our union agreement, as well — but it is nice that we can keep our casual staff employed as much as they wanted to,” said Phillips. “So we have about half of our crew moving over to the seasonal parks crew starting the beginning of May, and they’ll work there until the pool reopens.”
Phillips commended the municipality for keeping employees safe while on the job amidst a global pandemic.
“The challenging part is how we run our crews while keeping everyone safe — and I think that’s the same with all of our departments — and the town’s done a really good job at mitigating that, staggering shifts, and having people work separately. It’s been going well.”
Chubbs pointed out the town is doing what it can to keep most contracts local as a boost to the regional economy.
“We try to keep all of our contracts local anyway, if they’re smaller maintenance work, some of our bigger capital projects have to go to tender. But smaller jobs — like many of the smaller jobs we’re doing now, maintenance-wise we’re keeping it all local for sure. So we’ve been able to get into most of our buildings now and do quite a bit of work where normally it wouldn’t get done this early in the year due to it being busy.”