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Zorinsky building maintenance workers help ensure safe environment during pandemic

Published Dec. 9, 2020
Randy Beghtel, a machinery maintenance mechanic, checks an air-handling unit at the Zorinsky federal building in Omaha, Neb., Oct. 30, 2020.

Randy Beghtel, a machinery maintenance mechanic, checks an air-handling unit at the Zorinsky federal building in Omaha, Neb., Oct. 30, 2020.

The COVID – 19 pandemic has brought about many unique challenges and stresses to our daily lives, and for many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District employees it has changed the way they perform their daily tasks. Working diligently behind the scenes to ensure the safety of hundreds of district employees at the Zorinsky federal building in downtown Omaha are the General Services Agency’s contract maintenance workers from LB&B Associates, Inc.

According to James Robison, a maintenance supervisor with over 21 years of experience working in the Zorinsky building, there have been not been any dramatic changes in the way the team operates since the pandemic began, other than some schedule changes for routine, preventative maintenance. 

“We have special ultra-violet lights in the air-handling systems, so this year I moved the servicing date up a couple months from May to March just to make sure that they were all in good working order,” said Robison. “The ultra-violet lights help to kill airborne germs, bacteria and clean particles that travel through the air.”

Robison explains that he and his crew try their best to minimize contact with building employees as much as they can.  When an office light needs to be changed, for example, they wear their masks and practice social distancing.  “Other than that, it’s business as usual,” said Robison. 

Shortly after the pandemic began, the Omaha District commander authorized supervisors to implement a liberal telework policy to help minimize the spread of coronavirus—this policy remains in effect today.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District Commander, Col. Mark Himes and senior leaders continue to ask employees to follow CDC recommended guidelines including social distancing, wearing masks and handwashing.  And, to the extent possible, the commander requests staff to conduct meetings virtually. 

In addition, beginning Thanksgiving week, Col. Himes implemented a 100% telework policy for all employees for a period of 14 days to help curb anticipated spikes in the virus due to holiday travel.

Machinery maintenance mechanic, Randy Beghtel, has been working in the Zorinksy building for seven years and says that with less people around there are a lot fewer maintenance calls for him to respond to.

“I still have a lot of work to do with all of the regular maintenance that’s required on a daily basis,” said Beghtel. “Having less calls lets me get caught up on all of the other work I need to do. I think our team does a pretty good job of social distance, wearing masks and hand washing. Overall, I would say that our morale is pretty good.”

Beghtel said that everyone on the maintenance team tries to do their part to help prevent the spread.

“Our regular life is being disrupted by the pandemic, a lot of restaurants and establishments are closed, ‘no venues and no menus’, I’ll be glad when things return to normal,” said Beghtel.  

Additional precautions being taken to help slow the spread of COVID-19 include frequent cleaning and sanitizing efforts throughout the building including elevators, breakroom, lobbies, restrooms and door handles. 

The Zorinsky federal building is home to more than 500 Omaha District employees—in addition to employees from several other federal agencies.

“We still maintain the building as we did before—we just don’t see as many people around anymore,” said Robinson.

The safety and well-being of all District employees continues to remain a primary concern for Col. Himes.

“The holidays can be a stressful time, even without a pandemic, and I encourage you to not forget about your Corps family, too,” said Himes in an internal communication. “As you prepare for the upcoming holidays, please consider reviewing the Centers for Disease Control guidance for small gatherings to best protect against COVID-19 as you prepare for your holiday. Stay safe and stay healthy.”