District’s facilities get the once-over

Assistant buildings and grounds director Nick Munoz, left, and director Michael Cimmino speak at the Board of Education meeting on Dec. 6.

WEST ORANGE, NJ – West Orange School District director of buildings and grounds Michael Cimmino and assistant director of building and grounds Nick Munoz presented an update about the district’s facilities at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, Dec. 6, the first time that they had been to a meeting in person after being hired in January of this year. They gave an overview of ongoing projects in the school buildings, some of which were planned and some of which were emergency repairs.

“I met with our entire buildings and grounds staff and made it clear that every job in this department is equally important,” Cimmino said at the meeting. “They’re different, but they’re all very important. I’d like everyone to imagine a building that’s not been cleaned for two days. Is it occupiable? It is not. I stress the fact that we all have very important roles to play.”

Cimmino has revamped the work order system to improve efficiency; each work order is submitted separately, rather than being doubled up based on school or location, so there is a better sense of how many projects exist. Between Feb. 1 and Nov. 1, the department received 3,343 work order requests; 2,720 were filled. There are 562 projects that are still works in progress.

“That gives us a closure rate of 81 percent,” Cimmino said. “If you look at the fact that we have two electricians, two HVAC techs, three carpenters and the one plumber we recently onboarded, an 80 percent closure rate is pretty fantastic.”

One major project that Cimmino completed this year at West Orange High School was building a shot put field for the track-and-field team; the throwers had previously been practicing and competing on a grass field with painted lines on Conforti Avenue. Competitor schools had shot put fields, so the WOHS team wanted the same.

“Outsourcing that can be quite expensive,” Cimmino said. “So I pulled together our carpenters and our grounds personnel, and we were able to put together these shot put fields independently, in-house and at quite a low cost. There are costs with materials, but much cheaper than what it would have been to outsource.”

Some of the other projects Cimmino and his staff completed this year include replacing the boiler that heats the cafeteria at Gregory Elementary School, replacing the lighting system at Liberty Middle School, building a retaining wall at Washington Elementary School and replacing the PA system at Kelly Elementary School. There were roof replacements on various parts of WOHS, Edison Middle School and Mount Pleasant Elementary School. All of the district buildings received HVAC upgrades in some rooms, but Mount Pleasant had the biggest change, with upgrades to 11 rooms in the school.

There are several ongoing projects as well, including steam automation throughout the district, HVAC upgrades for rooms without mechanical systems, lead-in-water testing and a revamp of Mount Pleasant’s library.

A plumber was hired this year, so that district plumbing jobs don’t have to be outsourced to contractors. BOE member Cheryl Merklinger asked what the financial benefits of the in-house hire would be at the meeting.

“You would have to look at anything you had outsourced and what it cost for a contractor, versus the materials and labor for the in-house person to do the work,” Cimmino answered. “Then you would get a comparison. Generally speaking, anything you can do in-house is going to be more cost effective than outsourcing.”

Cimmino also said that most painting that is necessary in the buildings is done by the department staff, rather than by outside contractors.
“I think I speak for the board for how impressed we are that so much is done in-house,” BOE President Terry Trigg-Scales said at the meeting. “We’ve got such talent, and we’re able to get so much done without having to contract out.”