Kroc Centers use downtime to launch capital projects

May 4, 2020 | by Brad Rowland

Kroc Centers use downtime to launch capital projects

By: David Ibata

A Salvation Army pool equipment contractor was on his way to work on the filtration system at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Kerrville, Texas, on April 6 when he got the phone call no one wants to get: A family member he'd had contact with had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.

"He called and told me he'd already made the decision to turn around and go home," said Ross Wheeler, territorial Kroc Centers capital renewal manager. That delayed the launch of capital projects across the South while the contractor self-quarantined, but that's OK.

"It put us two weeks behind schedule, but we didn't put any staff at risk. I was thankful for that," Wheeler said.

The seven Kroc Centers in the Southern Territory, closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, are taking advantage of the downtime to launch projects that otherwise would have had to be scheduled around day-to-day health and wellness programs serving adults and children in their communities. All have been doing deep cleaning, painting and other sprucing up.

"All sorts of great things have happened in the time the buildings have been closed," Wheeler said. "A lot of projects the facility manager couldn't get to because it was hard to find downtime when the building was occupied, like floor finishes, can be done now."

"These actions and tasks speak to the dedication and pride that the Kroc Center facility managers have to serve in their roles and their communities, and ultimately to support the mission of The Salvation Army."

At the territorial level, plans had been made to repair and replace pool filtration equipment at the six Kroc Centers (other than Atlanta, Georgia) with swimming pools. The project was to go through September; the project requires each location's pool to be closed three to five days at a time.

The original execution plan had the months of June, July and August blacked out, as these are peak times for swimming pool operations.  With the closures that came in the wake of COVID-19, though, all that changed.

"Kerrville's new filter is going in this week," Wheeler said in an April 27 phone interview. The focus of pool filter installations moves to Memphis, Tennessee, the following week; then Biloxi, Mississippi; Greenville, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Norfolk, Virginia.

"We're really at the last bit of downtime associated with the coronavirus, we hope," Wheeler said. "In the event we miss this window of opportunity, we will coordinate with each Kroc Center to identify the next best opportunity to shut pool operations down for a three- to five-day period. Under normal circumstances, the ideal time to execute large capital projects is after Labor Day."

All the work except at the Hampton Roads Kroc Center in Norfolk should wrap up by June 1. Being last, and if it's reopened to the public, that center and the new pool filter will wait until the next best opportunity.

Elsewhere, while the Kerrville and Memphis Kroc Centers are mostly closed – they are partly open for day programs serving children of first responders and medical personnel – they will start replacing their building automation/HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) control systems the week of May 4.

"Again, we had looked at some point in the future to plan the projects, but when we saw the downtime coming, we asked the local Kroc operations team and the contractor if we could go with a more aggressive schedule," Wheeler said. "In Memphis, we reduced the controls project installation time by 50 percent. We were probably looking at a month to do it under normal circumstances; now, we can do it in two weeks."

Safe practices are being followed, such as ensuring distance between individual workers and proper personal protective equipment.

"We approach these capital projects very cautiously," Wheeler said. "A lot of our facility managers are already working on other building repairs and interior finish projects. I didn't want to cause a directive coming from the territorial level that did not align with the policies and protocols being made at each specific site for the execution of a capital project.

"If the local team is not comfortable or unable to support a capital project, we simply defer the proposed project to a future date that the team can comfortably support."

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