Don Keefe has been with CEO since January of 2020, and had just a few short months to get acclimated before the COVID-19 Pandemic changed everything.
Don lives in South Glen Falls, so he has a bit of a commute each day, but tries to get in between 7:30-8:00 every morning. The Weatherization Assistance Program starts at 7:30, and the Facilities team starts at 8:30. BEST stands for “Building and Energy Services Team,” so Don splits his time overseeing the Facilities Team and the Weatherization Team. Today, Don starts his day with a morning huddle with the Facilities Team. Team building is really important to Don and he likes to connect with everyone and help map things out for a successful day and week.
The Energy Services Programs at CEO has several aspects: The Weatherization Assistance Program through NY Homes and Community Renewal, Empower NY and HVAC services in collaboration with local HEAP providers. With Weatherization, we go into the home and help with energy reduction and whole home sealing and insulation. It’s a whole package of energy savings for qualified customers. Ultimately we seal the house, insulate, and do energy reduction measures like install high-efficiency fans, replace some appliances, or replace the heating source. We work with a lot of other agencies and programs to help the customer to get the best energy savings for their home. “This is great because it benefits the customer and the environment,” says Don.
Don reviews the overall project details for the day with the Weatherization Auditors and the Manager. Each job can typically take between two to three days (with exceptions for larger jobs), so as they are wrapping up the next job, they may also review what’s coming up next. Sometimes a job can be finished in a half day, and it’s good to know where they will be headed next. The Weatherization huddle wraps up by 8am so the crew can get out on the road.
After touching base with the Weatherization Team, Don moves on to have his morning huddle with the Facilities Team. “I basically take a hat off and put another hat on, as I switch between the two.”
Facilities has a crew of about four or five staff doing anything from custodial work to maintenance, work orders, and some larger construction projects and landscaping. Facilities has to maintain the buildings CEO owns across Rensselaer County, which is no small order. In Troy alone, CEO owns the main campus buildings: Administration, the JLB Community Resource Center, the Annex, and the Urban Training Center, as well as the Lansingburgh FRC. Then there are the outlying centers in Rensselaer, Schodack, and Hoosick Falls.
The Facilities team starts by talking about work orders that need to be addressed, what came in and what needs to be prioritized. The work order process is the main communication tool with the rest of the agency, but they also have an internal spreadsheet to help prioritize all of the incoming work order requests and needs. Brian Delaney, Facilities Manager, prioritizes with the team on where he needs to put his time, and then they discuss where each staff member needs to be positioned. The number one tool they use is a huge whiteboard laid out for each site that maps out each location’s work orders, maintenance, and emergencies. The team goes over any cleaning or inventory needs at each of the sites, as well as sanitization schedule.
With both teams set up for the day, Don does a walk around campus to get eyes on the buildings to see if there are any issues at the CRC, Administration Building, Annex, or UTC. Don usually sees most of the sites in a day, with the exception of Hoosick Falls FRC. He tries to get out to Hoosick Falls a few times a month. Because the travel to the Hoosick Falls FRC is so long, when the team does major work there, they plan on spending at least a half day. It also has its own custodian/maintenance worker, Jim Thurber. Brian is frequently at all of the centers, and they keep lines of communication open.
After walking through, Don gets a call that there is a leak in the basement of Lansingburgh FRC. He heads up to Lansingburgh to do some problem solving with the facilities team. Don and the Facilitates Team figure out where the leak was coming from, stop it, and order supplies to repair it. Sometimes they have to subcontract out work, but they are also able to handle a lot in-house, especially by using the Fee for Service crew, Jake and Pete. Their skills help with HVAC and plumbing issues that come up.
LFRC is one of the oldest buildings (along with the Administration building). They’ve been retrofitted with newer fixtures, HVAC systems, and internal mechanisms: electrical, heating, cooling, plumbing in each building, but it all needs constant preventative maintenance. There is a five-year master maintenance plan for each building. Part of the master plan is to lay it all out on a five-year plan listing priorities and to align those needs with a funding plan. It’s good to have long-term goals for each of the buildings.
Don meets with Sue, the Vice President, to discuss any larger agency issues, emergencies, or priorities coming up. The Facilities Team has been a huge part of reacting and planning during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was already a high standard of cleaning because of having so many early childhood classrooms, but now there is an extra layer and high demand for cleanliness and disinfecting. The team is focusing on both cleaning and sanitizing. They have fogging machines that were purchased prior to COVID for flu season, and those have been a huge help in making sure they are able to properly sanitize every classroom.
During COVID another priority for BEST was helping with the Food Pantry. Early on, the Food Pantry was the one of the essential programs serving customers in a contactless manner. The BEST Team was able to assist in the Food Pantry since the early childhood centers were closed, and Weatherization staff were not going into homes during early quarantine. They were able to take advantage of less staff being in the CRC to do some construction projects and expand/redo the welcome area, as well as set up a temporary Food Pantry on the first floor to cut down on elevator use. Facilities also helped with food distribution to each Early Childhood Center, and some families early on. In the Administration Building, the Facilities Team helped remodel the HR offices to create a better flow for social distancing.
Don has lunch at desk, followed by checking emails. He is frequently copied on anything pertaining to the BEST department, so he can get a lot of correspondence to weed through. After catching up, he plans the rest of his day accordingly.
Don tries to dedicate his afternoons to Weatherization. He meets with the Weatherization auditors to discuss customer complaints, game planning or crew issues, or specific problems that need to be discussed. He holds a department meeting once a week to review larger upcoming priorities. Ideally, he likes to have things mapped two to three weeks out.
Part of managing a department with two different teams is finding balance. Don notes, “I’m usually interrupted during that Weatherization meeting with some sort of situation that’s occurred during the morning on the facilities side, so I’ll help weigh in there before finishing things up.” Today that interruption is a dumpster at one of the sites that is overflowing and needs to be addressed. The Riverside Building had 15 palletes thrown in the dumpster by a neighbor, so Don reaches out to the trash pick-up company to schedule an extra pickup.
Don has been working with several vendors to have the rooftop units at the CRC replaced. Interior temperatures have been fluctuating; repairs have been made over the years, but now they must be replaced. Following CEO’s processes, Don must initiate a bidding process for the job. He spends time researching vendors and equipment. He finalizes a work scope for bidders to follow in accordance with our procedures. The bids will be due in a few days and CEO will select the lowest responsible bid.
Don heads home. Tomorrow Don is headed to meet with a Weatherization client in the morning and trouble shoot, but those are rarities- maybe once or twice a month. Pre-COVID he was trying to do that weekly, for customer relations, but has had to minimize that a bit during COVID. They currently have a job in Hudson Falls, so his plan is to stop in and say hello to the customer and crew first thing.
What is your favorite part of your job?
“The people. The people make the job fun. Every day its different people that I’m interacting with. I go to different sites, meet with site coordinators and managers, dealing with the SAT team on campus, and all the customers: food pantry customers, to Weatherization customers, kids’ parents or kids coming into each Head Start center.”
What would you want someone who is thinking about the joining the team to know?
“We are currently hiring for custodians. There is great work and family balance at CEO. The culture supports a good balance. The BEST group is from all avenues of life, and everyone brings their own flavor to the team. We are an eclectic group, but everyone works really well together.”