RON KRENEK STEPS INTO THE SIMMERING SUNSHINE just outside the Clear Lake Campus Hospital with a bright orange tester kit in his right hand and a sense of purpose in his gait.
As a longtime electrician and a facilities operations technician, Krenek heads for a gray metal door that opens to one of two massive electrical generators that provide emergency power for the hospital in the event of an electrical outage.
His task, which he completes every week as part of a routine preventive maintenance protocol, is to test the charge level of the eight batteries to ensure they start the generators when they’re needed.
“They’re fully charged,” Krenek says as he removes the tester from the last battery and fastens the door closed. “I do this every week, and it’s a really important part of my job because if these generators don’t start when we lose power, it could cost someone their life. I take that responsibility very seriously.”
That’s true for the entire team in Property Services, says Russell Rodecap, associate vice president of UTMB Property Services, a department in Business Operations & Facilities (BOF). Other departments in BOF include Auxiliary Enterprises, Environmental Health & Safety, Facilities Design & Construction, Facilities Portfolio Management, Facilities Risk Management, and Utilities.
Across UTMB, there are 116 employees in Property Services, including 98 technicians, who maintain the institution’s 10.5 million gross square feet of facilities that are part of our operations.
“This is the wizardry behind the curtains, so to speak,” Rodecap says. “There are so many things our teams do to keep our hospitals, academic and research facilities, and campuses running smoothly on a daily basis all while maintaining compliance. Every member of our team is focused on providing safe and reliable systems that support our mission areas to prevent unplanned interruptions in our operations.”
The team’s responsibilities include a mix of corrective maintenance, like repairing a leaky faucet, replacing air handler fan bearings, and changing a light bulb, to planned maintenance such as inspecting and adjusting fire doors, aligning motors with water pumps, cleaning ice machines, and testing the emergency power supply system. UTMB also generates the chilled water and hot water needed for the HVAC equipment and the team operates and manages complex utility equipment.
At the Clear Lake Campus, there are 10 technicians tasked with maintaining the hospital and two floors of the adjacent clinics building, says Bill Irwin, maintenance customer service manager at the Clear Lake Campus.
Irwin, who manages the Clear Lake group, says the team is comprised of skilled craftsmen, including an electrician, a carpenter, an Heating, Ventilcation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technician, a plumber, a Building Automation Systems (BAS) specialist, utility operators and a utility technician.
“Our team includes people who have been with UTMB for years but also three members, including myself, who worked here when it was the Bay Area Regional Medical Center,” he says. “That has given us a great perspective and has led to a lot of collaboration. In the end, of course, the focus is on the environment of care for our patients. My goal since Day One has been to make that environment the best it can be for every patient.”
That goal seems to echo through the entire team. Austin Williams, the HVAC technician, Ryan Elkins, the BAS specialist, and Marty Broadway, a senior carpenter, each mentioned camaraderie among teammates and the need to provide a safe facility for patients as highlights of their jobs at UTMB.
“I think all of our jobs are really important,” says Elkins, who has worked at UTMB for nine years. “We are all working and contributing to helping people save lives. Everyone in this hospital is involved in that, and I feel like we are too.”
The other team members at the Clear Lake Campus include plumber Olivar Garza, utilities reliability technician John Aumiller and four utility operations technicians: Beau Plite, Johnathan Oliver, Manuel “Manny” Guzman, and Travis McGahuey. Overseeing the maintenance and utility crews on the campus are Irwin and Isaac Hebert, program director for Utilities, and Ron Lloyd, program director for Property Services.
As for Krenek, this particular Tuesday morning starts like most. He arrives at the hospital at 6 a.m. and logs on to the Maximo work-order management system to check for maintenance requests. He’ll spend the next eight hours balancing between responding to those requests and his planned maintenance work.
Every so often, as he’s wheeling a FlexCart filled with electrical supplies and tools through the hospital’s hallways from one job to the next, his phone will beep, an indication that a new work order has been delivered by email.
“I love the variety of work that I do and I enjoy helping people,” Krenek says as he pushes the button on the elevator that will wind up on the fifth floor. “Here it’s like a small community. You see people on a daily basis and that really makes it feel like a family to me.”
Krenek, who has been an electrician for nearly four decades, has worked at UTMB for a total of 39 years. He retired briefly but returned to work with the institution in 2011.
“When I retired, I had been working at UTMB for 31 years and I was 49,” Krenek recalls. “That means more than half my life was here, and working here is my life. That’s why I decided to come back.”
Much of Krenek’s career involved working in Galveston, handling maintenance from one end of the sprawling campus to the other. But last year, he had the opportunity to join the new team assembled to handle facilities maintenance at the Clear Lake Campus. Krenek seized the opportunity.
He and his team, along with the rest of the Business Operations & Facilities departments, were instrumental in preparing the 367,000-square-foot hospital for its March 30 opening.
Williams, the HVAC technician, takes pride in the work that was completed to get the facility ready.
“We did whatever it took to get this place opened on its scheduled date,” he says as he stands inside a room filled with electrical panels. “It’s just a relief to see that all the hard work has paid off and see that our community has first-class medical care available here.”