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NMSU grounds department keeps campus looking great

Release Date: 29 Aug 2022
NMSU grounds department keeps campus looking great

Semesters come and go at New Mexico State University, but the upkeep of the university’s Las Cruces campus by the grounds department at Facilities & Services is priority every day, as crews meet the needs and expectations of the community despite having fewer boots on the ground. 
 
The grounds team handles all kinds of tasks, from litter patrol on campus, signage, pest control, and weed control to mowing, blowing, tree trimming, irrigation, and event support. They are also sometimes called on to install or renovate landscaping and turf.  
 
Orlando Flores, grounds and vehicle maintenance manager with F&S, said over the years the number of crew members has diminished due to budget reductions, especially after COVID-19 hit. In 2011, there were about 30 full-time staff. Right now, the crew of 14 people is working hard to maintain a high level of service.  
 
“To put it briefly, for 14 people to cover over 300 acres adequately, it does put some strain on our frequency and how promptly we’re addressing campus as a whole,” Flores explained. “For example, previously we could mow all turf areas within campus once a week. Now given the number of staff we have, that’s actually pushed our mowing back to areas getting touched maybe every 10 days or biweekly.”  
 
The start of the fall semester brings an increase in demand, and Flores said the team takes the extra effort to address issues that come up, no matter where the report comes from. “We never know if it’s going to be the students on campus, members of the public, or anyone else. We try to put our best foot forward and keep campus presentable at all times for whoever is onboard or visiting.”  
 
Groundskeepers like Richard Trevino hope visitors and the campus community notice the extra effort they put in to make NMSU stand out from the crowd.  
 
“I want to make us look better than any other place here in the state or even in Texas,” Trevino said. "I’m trying my very best. Even people who are just driving in and out of NMSU – I think they’ll see a difference between on campus and outside of the university.”  
 
Flores said he believes it’s important to share with the campus community why his team needs a little extra patience as they’re responding to concerns.  
 
“In conversations that I have with the campus community, the first perception is sometimes that we’re not being attentive,” he said. “We’re doing our best with the staffing that we have, and we’re always looking into new methods and alternatives to upkeep our service, or alleviate some of the burdens on the campus maintenance that we’re trying to address.”  
 
Some of those new methods to help alleviate the workload involve investing in a robotic striper to paint athletic fields and venturing into a robotic mower as well.  
 
While thinking outside of the box to help future maintenance, the grounds team also asks for the public’s patience, understanding, and help by continuing to keep an eye out for services that need to be taken care of.  
 
“A lot of our irrigation systems are running during the middle of the night and we’re not here,” Flores said. “It’s a big campus to cover, so we may not visually see every single part of campus for a day or two because of whatever we have going on at any given time. For us, the vigilance of the community is important, and we ask to continue reporting that stuff to us. We may not get to it right then and there when they’ve reported it, but at least we’ve had some eyes on it and we’re aware of it.”  
 
“We’re always grateful that people are pointing things out to us that we don’t see on a daily basis,” said groundskeeper David Silva.  
 
Despite the pressure on their smaller crew, the team appreciates those who often visit campus and respect the beautiful sights by being responsible. Trevino said everyone can contribute to keeping NMSU’s campus beautiful.  
 
“Thanks to the students and the people that come to campus to exercise or spend time here who pick up after themselves,” Trevino said. “Some will go out of their way to pick up something that wasn’t even their doing, and we just say thanks to those who don’t mind helping.”  
 
For more information on reporting work orders to the grounds department, contact FSWorkorder@nmsu.edu or call the work order desk at 575-646-7114.

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