Managing through Chaos
The unsung heroes for Region 8 have unquestionably been our building managers who have been on the front line through a tumultuous year.
For these professionals, like Temesgen “Taz” Wolday and Adam Rankin, normal meant interfacing with tenants and solving a myriad of building-related issues such as building operations, maintenance, repair, alteration, historic preservation, recycling, concessions, safety, environmental and security. This year, it has involved much more.
At the Byron Rogers Federal Building, where Wolday is currently the building manager after taking over for Rankin, the past 18 months has presented itself with many challenges. Among these include dealing with the pandemic, civil unrest and an increasing homeless population - none of which have easy solutions.
“There is so much that needs to be known as a building manager,” said Wolday. “You don't need to be an expert in every area, but you need to have enough knowledge to make decisions. The great thing about GSA though is we have plenty of experts that we can lean on when there are questions that you can’t answer.”
Throughout the pandemic, not all federal agencies stayed home on emergency telework orders so GSA essential workers, mostly building managers, continued to be physically present at their buildings.
Frequently building managers received reports of COVID exposure from agencies and had to respond quickly to incidents. This included thoroughly mapping out all the places the potentially infected person went and estimating the square footage of the area to identify the requirements for contracted cleaners.
They then tracked the specific cleaning needs in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Sometimes more than one incident was reported in a workday or multiple indents were reported in a week making it exhausting work to track each occurrence. It really became a partnership between the building manager and the affected tenant agency.
“We not only had to coordinate with the custodial contracting officer representative to get a proposal, get the cleaning done and communicate with the other building tenants but then we had to close out with the regional COVID team,” said Wolday. “It was kind of a process”
The pandemic presented a substantial challenge for our building managers but not the only one they would encounter during this past year.
Wolday and Rankin also had to contend with civil unrest that impacted Denver, not unlike what large cities across the country experienced, resulting in vandalism at several downtown federal buildings. They had to react and recover from broken windows and graffiti that happened on a regular basis from nightly protests that got out of control.
“One of the biggest incidents that we had over the last couple of years was the protest that took place downtown,“ said Rankin, currently the Community Business Center Manager for the Denver Federal Center Field Office. “At one point we had over 1000 people in the street between the Byron Rogers Courthouse and the Arraj Courthouse.”
Federal facilities in major cities have become magnets for people experiencing homelessness and the downtown federal buildings and parking structures have been no exception. Developing creative strategies to keep buildings safe and secure has been a challenge, especially because they try to be sensitive to each individual's situation.
“In the past year and a half, at least once a month there has been some kind of incident related to the homeless and our buildings,'' said Rankin.
“It seems like almost every single one of our downtown buildings had at least one broken window this past year due to the homeless and protests,” added Wolday.
One thing is abundantly clear…our building managers have had to endure a lot and they still continue to be our quiet professionals maintaining the front line of working with tenants and keeping federal facilities operational.