Funding woes leave campus littered

Rhys Alvarado

Every morning, Juan Patino and the grounds keeping crew gather at the stands of La Playa Stadium to talk about the duties of the day.

Dressed in red long sleeves and rubber boots while huddled around a chocolate chip loaf, the crew chats about the trees that need trimming, hills that need to be weed whacked, and the mulch that needs to be laid before the dry summer months arrive.

Looking at the long day of work ahead, and the handful of workers maintain the 72-acre campus, Patino can’t help but look back to what he calls the “easier times.”

When he was hired 21 years ago, the crew totaled 10, and the only building on West Campus was the Garvin Theatre. Back then, work was done to the very detail. No tree was left untrimmed, no weed left un-pulled.

“Now we’ve got double the ground with half the workers,” Patino said.

Over the last five years, the crew’s full-time staff has been trimmed by 40 percent, and none of them have been replaced.

Due to a $41.6 billion state deficit, campus leaders were forced to freeze a majority of hourly positions within the grounds, maintenance, and custodial departments in the fall. The effects of budget cuts are now being felt throughout campus, from leaky ceiling tiles and the cleanliness of the restrooms, to the appearance of the landscape.

“The campus isn’t as clean as it used to be a year or two ago,” said City College student John Wittenberg. “It used to be immaculate.”

Joe Sullivan, vice president of Business Services said that the cutbacks are inevitable.

“It may be noticeable, but not out of control,” Sullivan said. “It comes down to what is adequate and what’s appropriate.”

With such deep slashes to staff, the grounds crew has had to hold back on the areas of campus they can cover, and the amount of work they can accomplish. The grounds crew has been unable to service the tennis courts and athletic departments.

“I don’t know where we can cut back any more,” said grounds supervisor Mike Bishop. “We used to have guys focusing on one job, but now we have them all over the place.”

Bishop feels that his staff is being stretched too thin, and has had problems with getting the school to replace workers that leave.

“The college has sort of a wait-and-see attitude,” Bishop said. “They’re not re-filling positions. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Some of the grounds workers have even come up with nicknames for these places on campus they’re unable to clean. For example, the large patches of weeds just outside the Digital Arts building they like to call the “Amazons.”

“I wish I could have my crew back,” Bishop said.

Custodial workers also have had to cut back on the work they can do, with the limited amount of workers they have to do it.

With the recent addition of the Drama/Music swing space, only one custodial position has been added to service the extra 30,000 square feet of classrooms and bathrooms.

“It’s too difficult for custodians, because these things need to be done everyday,” said Lupe Huerta, the daytime supervisor.

Bathrooms and classrooms are still serviced daily, but faculty offices are now cleaned only once a week. Around 17,000 students attend City College and use its facilities.

Maintenance workers have had a hard time themselves because the school has slashed their hourly positions, and is having difficulties paying to get equipment fixed.

“In this current budget situation, if it isn’t important it doesn’t get fixed,” Sullivan said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Currently, there are five on staff within the maintenance department and one working supervisor. One plumber, one electrician, one air conditioning specialist and two technicians are what make up the maintenance crew at City College.

The college sometimes hires other companies on an as-needed basis to assist City College’s maintenance crew when work is overwhelming.

Sullivan hopes that one day the college replaces the staff to what it was before. But until City College has enough money to rehire the lost positions, Sullivan said that the school will have to make due with what its got.

“We’re doing what we can right now,” Sullivan said.