For FacOps staff, their jobs mean long hours, but also good pay, benefits

A NU FacOps golf cart provides the staff easy access to tools, while being cost effective to provide mobility around campus.

A NU FacOps golf cart provides the staff easy access to tools, while being cost effective to provide mobility around campus.

Employees of the Facilities Operations (FacOps) department at Norwich University work long hours balanced by benefits that outshine packages offered by other employers, say staffers there.

“(Norwich has) a great benefit package between health insurances and retirements and the vacations that they give us and the amount of sick (leave) that they give us,” said Hollis Rocker, who serves as NU’s Supervisor of Grounds, Transportation and Vehicle Maintenance.

Larry Hopper, a custodian at NU, agrees that the benefit package is indispensable. “Where I worked before, any benefit you had you got a group rate but you paid the whole thing,” Hopper said. “Norwich has a fairly good benefits package, I took a $1 pay cut to come here and within a year I was probably making 50 cents to a $1 an hour more and now I’m making, excluding the benefits package, I probably make $3 an hour more than my old job.”

According to Hopper, the benefit package offered to him includes dental, and as a new benefit has vision care. Hopper has worked places before coming to Norwich, and Norwich has provided the best benefits and pay.

“I’ve always had you would call it low-end jobs like this, working in a gas station, a delivery room,” said Hopper, “the pay here is better than some semi-skilled jobs in the area.”

According to Larry Hopkins, a heavy equipment operator within NU’s facilities operations, the longer you are a member of FacOps the better the benefits get. Hopkins has been an employee since 1970. “If you stay here long enough you can get up to four weeks vacation,” Hopkins said. “(Norwich University) gives us our birthday, that included in the holidays, is another nine days.”

Along with the regular vacation days, including the one week off they have over winter break, the members of FacOps have a number of opportunities to increase their days off. Their benefits are satisfying, but the best benefit that the members can receive is one available to family members, according to Hopkins.

“The biggest benefit here was introduced by (former president) General Todd,” said Hopkins, who arranged for faculty scholarships. His daughter “happened to be a junior in high school when it was introduced,”
he said.

The scholarships given to employees enable family members to go to the school for a steeply reduced rate that covers tuition costs. Norwich provides everything excluding housing and books, according to Hopkins.

Although the benefits package is rewarding, the members of the FacOps work early hours and long hours on important weekends, and during the winter their job gets significantly harder, according to employees.

“Our regular hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and our snow days are 4 a.m. to 12 p.m. unless we’re required to stay longer,” said Hopkins. According to Hopkins, a normal day for him consists of removing various office equipment, and doing whatever the service orders tell them to do at various times of the day.

Alumni weekend involves more work and longer hours, according to Hopper. “In those days we’re more out of sight,” Hopper said. “We come in early on those days, usually at 4 a.m. and have a crew come in and clean,everything and make sure the outside is spiffed up along with all the other departments.”

Most of the employees have more to do that weekend than normal, according to George Sanders, an employee who is a part of the grounds crew.

“Alumni weekend we do set-ups and try to maintain the ground and try to make sure everything’s all taken care of,” Sanders said. “We have chairs we set up and take down at the end of the day, and after hours try to get everything put away.”

According to Bill Nash, who heads up FacOps., his job involves a much longer process preparing for Alumni weekend and other events like that. “We start (alumni weekend) probably a month or two before meeting with the alumni office.”

As the scheduler for facility operations, he has to send out the work orders and organize the basic maintenance like a property manager would. The only frustrating part of his job is that he is “not able to do the work myself,” Nash said. “I sit here and from here make sure the work is done, but I can’t actually go out there and do it.”

Dealing with Mother Nature is one of the hardships and frustrations to being a part of the university’s maintenance crew.

“Snow removal can be a challenge,” said Hopkins. “If it’s one of those days where it doesn’t stop snowing, we’re trying to keep things safe and passable it can be very stressful sometimes.”

Sanders agrees that the snow removal can be difficult, especially when the equipment fails and they have to do tasks such as salting by hand.

Every maintenance staffer does his or her part to try and fix the things, whether it be plumbing, heating, or air conditioning, Nash said.

“These guys are great – they’re out to help the kids,” Nash said of all of the FacOps employees. “They’re all talented, much more talented than I ever could be.”

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