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Sat, Jan. 23

Playing it safe, and keeping it clean: Facilities Division of Mohave County Public Works is working harder than ever

Janitorial crew member Stephen Schultz and custodian Becky Garcia of the Mohave County Public Works Department’s Facilities Division show where they prepare sanitizing wipes for cleaning county buildings. (Photo by Agata Popeda/Kingman Miner )

Janitorial crew member Stephen Schultz and custodian Becky Garcia of the Mohave County Public Works Department’s Facilities Division show where they prepare sanitizing wipes for cleaning county buildings. (Photo by Agata Popeda/Kingman Miner )

COVID-19 or no COVID-19, the Mohave County Public Works Department Facilities Division, has plenty to do, responsible for 90% of county buildings and maintaining 540,000 square feet of surface. With COVID-19, and a shortage of cleaning supplies, the job is just more difficult.

The division has a cleaning crew of 12 staff janitors and three different janitorial service companies that supply soap, toilet paper, paper towels and automatic hand sanitizer machines for all the county buildings, including 35 buildings in Kingman. Morning and evening shifts provide coverage from 3:30 a.m. to midnight.

“The libraries, the sheriff’s office and the parks have their own cleaning crews,” explained John Mieding, construction and facility engineer manager at Public Works, 3715 Sunshine Drive. He introduced his janitorial crew member Stephen Schultz and custodian Becky Garcia, who came up with the surface sanitizer kit.

“We went from buying surplus for day-to-day use to a panic mode,” Schultz said, describing the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are learning as we go, but we have a good janitorial staff that follows instructions and makes sure things are done right.”

Cleaning supplies have been hard to come by, with the county receiving less than 50% of what it orders. So the county started making its own sanitary wipes, mixing sanitizer with wipes in large tubs.

“We had to stay ahead of the game,” Schultz said.

Custodian Rebecca Garcia opened the door to the room where “the magic happens” and kits are being built.

“It’s a pretty simple process,” Schultz explained. “The tub comes empty. We put solution in the bottom, put in the wipes, and put the solution over the wipes.”

The product – they also make spray bottles – killing germs within five minutes of being deployed on a surface.

“It’s a commercially available cleaning chemical,” Mieding said. “It’s not rocket science.”

Garcia and Schultz put the kits and bottle sprays together and Mieding distributes the product all over the county buildings. They feel pretty well stocked and confident that the product can help keep COVID-19 at bay.

In the past, desk and counter tops were being wiped maybe twice a day. Now the goal is to wipe all high-contact areas, desks and counters after each use.

“I will wipe this conference room after we are done,” Garcia said. “I wipe my rails from every 2 to 4 hours depending on capabilities.”

She talks about occasional staff shortages, which forces others to clean extra buildings, and all those endless door handles, exit devices, drinking fountains, elevators buttons and other contact points that have to be wiped.

“Now, I’m focusing more on wiping tables and chairs and door handles more than vacuuming and dusting to make sure that everything is safer to touch,” Garcia explained.

Public Works, Facilities Division is trying to provide the county employees and residents with a sense of security, Schultz said. They provide masks and gloves when necessary, for example to security guards at courthouses, who are exposed to many people walking in.

Mieding shared a story of an incident in a Lake Havasu City Courthouse. A man went to the doctor, and was told to go home and self-isolate for 14 days. On his way home, the individual, according to Mieding, stopped by a courthouse to tell the clerk he couldn’t participate in jury duty that day. He spoke with several people at the courthouse, instead of going straight home and calling, Mieding said.

“In such instances,” he continued, “our crew goes in. We have cameras so we know where the guy was and what he touched.”

“Another dimension is plastic shields,” Mieding said. “We are installing those, too. We have the Bullhead City campus buildings already finished.”

The Lake Havasu City campus is finished with the exception of the courtrooms, Mieding said on Monday, May 18. Shields were also to be installed in county senior centers in Kingman, Lake Havasu City and Golden Shores by May 19, and will be placed in certain department in the county building in Kingman.

“What changed the most from the previous cleaning process is the method,” Mieding said.

That means paper towels instead of rags. Public Works used to wash and recycle cloth towels, but they can too easily carry the virus to another surface, causing cross-contamination, Garcia said.

Are county employees and petitioners visiting the building cooperative with the new rules?

“People adhere to those rules pretty well,” Schultz said. “They follow the squares on the floor and the 6-feet distance requirement.”

“I agree,” Mieding said. “I had one person in Bullhead giving me a hard time. I was down in the building without a mask. This individual saw my shirt and jumped all over me because he thought I was inconsiderate in not covering my face when I was in a public building.”

Mieding said he was 6 feet away from the man, and wasn’t sick or exposed to anyone who has been sick, but he understands that people are worried and he will consider wearing a mask next time.

“Be respectful of other people’s thoughts and wishes” is his advice. “There are a lot of people out there who have immune system issues, and you don’t necessary know who those people are. So practice CDC guidelines while pursuing your life.”

“We‘ll get through this together,” Garcia said with a big smile.

“Those people are the tip of the spear,” Mieding said about his janitorial crew. “They are right there, at the point of potential contamination. They work hard and are not recognized for this critical function, because janitors are always in the background, doing quiet work behind the scenes.”

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