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The nation’s K-12 schools have become the poster children for the scourge of deferred maintenance in the nation’s institutional and commercial facilities. Granted, school districts have struggled for years to properly inspect, repair and maintain their facilities, and their shortcomings have hampered teachers’ efforts and put students and staff in danger in some cases. But schools are hardly alone in struggling to maintain their facilities properly.
It’s been a frequent occurrence for years at Denver International Airport (DIA): Out-of-order escalators and moving walkways gum up the flow of crowds. Broken fixtures in bathrooms greet arriving passengers. And the once-gleaming airport loses more of its luster even as there’s evidence of billions of dollars being spent in other ways.
Twenty-six years after DIA opened, it’s fallen behind on maintaining its original buildings and the tens of thousands of pieces of equipment, vehicles, machinery and moving parts that keep the airport running.
A recent city audit and documents reviewed by The Denver Post show that the airport, nearly eight years into an effort to establish a preventive maintenance program, is not devoting nearly the attention or resources to the most basic tasks of upkeep as it has to recent projects bringing major renovations and expansions.
The audit characterized DIA as stuck on a reactive footing when it comes to maintenance. That approach has relegated thousands of routine inspections, check-ups and preventive work to a backlog list that in the last three years has grown to more than 7,000 items.
The maintenance team is chronically understaffed, with vacancies in 23 percent of 490 positions. Those workers have been diverted often for emergency repairs, leaving routine inspections for another day.
Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.