Creating a Facilities Maintenance Department: Arlington Case Study

In Spring 2015, Arlington’s legislative body voted to approve the establishment of a new department to oversee Facilities Maintenance.  Ruth Bennett, Architect, was hired in August, 2015 to head the new department.  The process of establishing the department was the result of recommendations from the Capital Planning Committee to the Board of Selectman who established the committee.  The continuous support of the Town Manager. Adam Chapdelaine, was a critical element in this success.

DRAFT General Policy Statement:

Background:  In 2012 the Arlington, Massachusetts Board of Selectmen, concerned about the preservation of Town assets,  voted to establish a Maintenance Plan for the Town, requesting that a Committee be formed and a report be provided to Town Meeting.  In 2013 a Maintenance Committee was established to assemble baseline information on the town’s properties, draft a maintenance policy for the Town that would  protect  the capital investment made by the Town in its public facilities and propose a road map for implementing this Plan and Policy.

The Maintenance Plan will identify goals and tasks necessary to implement both the long term useability of facilities through preventative maintenance and to address shorter term scheduling, work orders management and custodial tasks.  The format of this plan and baseline data will be determined.  The Maintenance Plan will be updated annual and will cover a five year period.

The Maintenance Policy will help guide a committee to prioritize projects needing an annual review and special funding and will help departmental officials to carry out appropriate maintenance tasks on a routine schedule.  To protect and preserve the large capital investments (about 5% of the Town’s annual revenues or roughly $6 million) that the Town has made in its facilities, the Town, as a whole, and individual departments, will develop frameworks for scheduling and budgeting for maintenance of facilities and equipment.

Arlington Town Hall
Arlington Town Hall

Maintenance Policy:   The Maintenance Policy addresses both the Annual Review and prioritization of maintenance requests and the Continuous Cycle of maintenance tasks.

  1. Annual Cycle – Prioritize and Fund:

Baseline Information:  To begin, all town owned facilities, buildings and major equipment should be catalogued with the acquisition date, the category of property and the expected lifetime of the property in order to determine a regular schedule of maintenance.

Departments charged with the task of maintaining the Town’s buildings and equipment will submit their requests for maintenance funding to a TBD group with TBD criteria by September 1 of each year.

  1. Continuous Cycle – Priority of Work:

The Town will invest in a web based system for tracking and managing maintenance work requests and assigned work orders.   Priority and resources will be assigned as follows:

  • High – Problems that are not an emergency as defined above which prohibit the occupants from using a space for its intended purpose. Examples are no lights or power, heating and cooling problems effecting one or more classrooms, entire building system is not working, elevator malfunction, inoperative door hardware, etc.
  • Medium – Problems that limit the occupants from using a space for its intended purpose. Examples are one row of lights is out, one plugged toilet, heating, cooling and ventilation problems effecting offices, seldom used spaces and storage areas, door hardware sticks, one phone doesn’t work.
  • Low – An annoyance problem that does not limit the occupants from using a space for its intended purpose. Examples are painting, window sticking, missing screw, furniture move, etc.

Currently the Department of Public Works’ Facilities Division is responsible for maintaining all school and town buildings in a cost effective customer oriented manner that provides a safe, comfortable and functional environment for the occupants  and users.

The Department of Public Works’ Facilities Division is organized into two functional areas:  building maintenance and custodial services.

  1. Building Maintenance activities include scheduled preventive maintenance and routine and emergency repair of all building systems, weekend building checks and on call emergency response services.
    • Preventive Maintenance:
      • The Facilities Division has an on going program to identify building systems and equipment that need periodic lubrication, adjustment and inspection. A schedule and checklist is established for each system or piece of equipment and entered into the web based maintenance management system. The system produces a work order when the service is due.
      • Building systems and equipment not part of the PM plan can be added by written request from the Department Head or Building Administrator. The requested should be sent to the Superintendent of Buildings. The request should include the make, model, serial number of the equipment and other identifying information such as building and location. Facilities will work with the requestor to develop a PM checklist and schedule.
    • Service Requests & Routine Maintenance:
      • Routine maintenance is all repair work except emergencies, preventive maintenance or capital improvements.
      • Routine maintenance is requested using the a web based maintenance management system. The request process will be centralized or decentralized. The process to be used is determined by the Department Head or the Building Administrator.
      • A maintenance request using the centralized process is submitted in writing to the Building Administrator or designee for review and approval. A person designated by the Building Administrator enters the approved request into the web based maintenance management system.
      • A maintenance request using the decentralized process is entered directly into the web based maintenance management system by the requestor. The Building Administrator provides a list of authorized requestors to the Facilities Division. The Facilities Division sets up the requestor as a user in the web based maintenance management system.
      • To request instructions for entering work requests in to the maintenance management system please call the Facilities Division.
    • Emergencies:
      • Emergencies are situations that have or may result in personal injury or property damage.
      • All emergencies should be immediately reported to the appropriate Department Head or Building Administrator’s Office (Principles Office) and custodian on duty.
      • In the case of fire, gas leak or other event that threatens the safety of building occupants, follow the emergency procedures established to protect life and property at the facility.
      • Notify the Facilities Division of the emergency by calling the Superintendent of Buildings at either (781) -316-3631 or (781)-389-7891. If the emergency occurs after hours or no one answers call the Public Safety Dispatcher at (781) 643 – 1212. In reporting an emergency, be prepared to provide the following information: Your Name, Building Address, Location (floor and room number) and Nature of the problem.
  1. Custodial Services include daily and periodic cleaning, integrated pest management, non-hazardous waste disposal, recycling, general safety and custodial coverage for special events.

The primary mission of the Facilities Division is to make emergency and routine repairs and perform preventive maintenance services. Minor alterations, additions and enhancement projects are done as staff availability and funding permit or if the task is deemed a health and safety concern. All other projects are done as a contracted service. Project funding for outsourced maintenance work is requested as part of the operating or capital budget process.

Work Request Follow Up (for “Continuous Cycle”Building Maintenance Tasks):

Call the Facilities Division or e-mail the Superintendent of Buildings to upgrade the priority or follow up on a work request.

Follow up should be initiated if a maintenance problem continues to deteriorate and warrants a higher priority, a high priority work request has aged thirty (30) days or more, a medium priority work request aged sixty (60) days or more and a low priority work request has aged ninety (90) days or more. Funding limitations could further delay the completion of a service request or be removed from the program as a result of other outstanding priorities.

Current Process for Funding Capital (not Maintenance) Projects:

Renovations, alterations and enhancements are typically projects funded and scheduled as part of the Town’s Capital Improvement Program which does not fund Maintenance projects.   It is hoped that the Maintenance process will eventually follow the same model as the Captital Planning budget process, ie. requesting submissions from departments, review of submissions against a budget and against defined criteria and funding of submissions through the Town budget process.

NOTE:  A capital asset is defined as an asset that either has an expected useful life of at least two years and either has a unit cost of at least $3,000 or is purchased in a program to gradually purchase a quantity of essentially identical units such that the total quantity price is over $25,000.  A capital improvement is defined as an improvement to a capital asset that may reasonably be expected to either adapt the capital asset to a different use or appreciably lengthen the useful life of the capital asset beyond what may be expected with normal maintenance.

  • Capital improvements will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
  • Imminent threat to the health and safety of citizens/property.
  • Maintenance of operations necessary/expenditure. This does not include preventative or routine maintenance but rather maintaining a current service level through improvement of a capital asset.  These may be major expenditures that will avoid costly replacement in the future.
  • Requirement of State or Federal Law/regulation.
  • Improvement of infrastructure.
  • Improvement of productivity.
  • Alleviation of an overtaxed/overburdened situation.


Chair:  Barbara Thornton;  Members:  Andrew Flanagan, Christine Deshler, Diane Johnson, Mark Miano, Ruth Bennett, Vincent Cerbone


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