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WCSO Maintenance Crew--December 2013 Wakulla Times

WCSO HAS MANY OUTSTANDING STAFF MEMBERS WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE EVERY DAY

By CHARLIE CREEL
Sheriff, Wakulla County

The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office is fortunate to have many outstanding and talented employees who contribute to the betterment of the agency and in support of taxpayers on a daily basis. A short time ago we were able to hire Robert “Pete” Cochran to lead our maintenance division. The work done by Pete and his fellow maintenance crew members make life much smoother for everyone who has to live or work at the sheriff’s office.

In determining what to share with the public in the December issue of the Wakulla Area Times I felt like a spotlight feature on Pete and his crew was appropriate. The following will give you a better idea of what it is like to keep our facility operating smoothly 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

We are unlike other county operations in that we don’t really ever close the doors and turn out the lights. When our administrative crew is gone for the day or the weekend we still have road patrol and communications staff that work when others are sleeping. We must always have someone to watch the inmates and our detention staff is always here at the facility.

As you will read in the feature, the maintenance crew may be off duty but they are always on call in the event that something is needed or something needs to be repaired. The staff is dedicated to making sure the WCSO operation runs smoothly and efficiently while always being mindful of the economic impact on our budget.

PETE COCHRAN AND THE WCSO MAINTENANCE CREW---

It is a typical Sunday night in Wakulla County. Robert “Pete” Cochran, Director of the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Maintenance Division, is relaxing in a favorite chair savoring the memories of his recently eaten steak dinner.

But the calm of the end of the weekend is about to change. His agency cellular telephone is about to ring. A deteriorated wire on the WCSO’s fire alarm system has caused the alarm to go off. Cochran grabs his shoes and drives off to the agency 12 hours earlier than expected.

Back at the office, the alarm system is calmed and the loud screech of the alarm is quieted so the night shift can continue their work in relative quiet.
Monday morning rolls around and Cochran and crew member Delano Taylor give the wiring problem a permanent fix as one of their first acts of the brand new week.

From the fire alarm equipment a typical day might take Cochran and his crew into the jail to fix a lock or a plumbing fixture. This particular week painting the Emergency Operations Center is underway and Cochran visits with the inmates providing the labor and crew member Matt Slavens who crawls out from under an equipment counter after reaching the wall. Inmates paint doors and walls and trim of the Dispatch office.

Meanwhile, back at the maintenance office, Gene Darby is welding window protection for Chevrolet Silverado road patrol trucks that are soon to enter service. All of the activities go back to a mandate by Sheriff Charlie Creel to complete projects “in house” and for the smallest amount of taxpayer funding as possible.

When Sheriff Creel was sworn in as the new sheriff in January he knew there would be many aspects about the transitional effort of the sheriff’s office operation where he could place his own personal stamp.
The law enforcement division was an obvious area, but he also made it his mission to restructure the maintenance program to run more efficiently and less expensively.

“I am really proud of the effort Pete and his staff have put forward,” said the Sheriff. “They have saved taxpayers thousands of dollars by having the ability to do projects ‘in house’ which has made projects less expensive and quicker to complete.”

“I run maintenance as a business,” said Cochran. “I want all my ‘customers’ (WCSO staff) to be happy with the work we do. I want to do the projects for as little money as possible and I want to be able to get things done quickly.”

Maintaining a 24 hour operation like the sheriff’s office can be a challenge. “Every day is a new adventure,” said Cochran. “I never know what I will be doing next.”
For a few minutes he was allowed to sit down at his desk and complete some paperwork. The quiet of the office was quickly shattered by the ring of the desk phone and a visit from Sgt. Billy Jones who needed to discuss equipment. Later the crackle of the agency radio draws his attention.

Not long before Sgt. Jones’ visit, Cochran and his crew were in the WCSO attic addressing some concerns and then climbed on the roof looking over potential repair areas.
Back on the ground the Ozark, Ala. native got to discuss equipment and his life experiences in Wakulla County and his time at Wakulla High School. Since he arrived at the WCSO in March 2011 as a certified automotive mechanic who ran a 600 vehicle fleet, he has learned about vacuum toilets, switched out old light fixtures to more energy efficient lights and repaired or replaced jail locking mechanisms.

Within the fence of the maintenance yard is 120 property numbers that count each piece of equipment, tools and vehicles. He keeps track of every WCSO tool and a log helps keep tools from becoming lost. Lost tools cost money to replace and Cochran can’t see paying for a tool twice.

There are boats, light towers, trailers, warning signs and a wood chipper that must always be ready to be put in use. Nothing is more frustrating to Cochran than having a deputy need a warning sign on short notice and discovering the battery is dead.

He has set up an area for spare patrol vehicles to be used and signs remain under a charge until they are needed. It is the only way to be organized and efficient.
“I like learning new things and I love new challenges,” said Cochran, whose background was in fleet management. “I knew fleet so I wanted to spend as much time as I could learning about the jail.”
The maintenance crew gets an opportunity to take advantage of inmate labor and inmate expertise. Slavens used inmate labor to get his painting jobs done quicker. The labor has also helped during storm details, loading and unloading materials and buffing a shine into the WCSO’s tile floors.

“We make decisions as a team,” said Cochran “We do everything but buff the floors and you have to have the right tools to be safer and more efficient. The sheriff has been great about making sure we have the tools we need to get the job done right.”

Lightning recently struck the structure and the sheriff’s office had some equipment damaged. “We’re never off because the facility never closes,” he added. “There is always something that needs to be done.”
Delano Taylor is known for his plumbing and electrical expertise while Matt Slavens is a carpenter and a painter. Gene Darby is a welder and an automotive and fleet worker.
Small engines of chain saws must be maintained and light towers work when Mother Nature dumps trees and limbs across roads and power lines. The maintenance crew works with inmates during parades and special events to handle crowd control and trash details.

The maintenance crew assisted at the scene of a large marijuana growing operation as the lighting and air filtration system needed to be dismantled along with the seizure of the plants.
Cochran’s given name is Robert and his uniform shirt says “R. Cochran” on it but the staff calls him “Pete” for the former Cincinnati Reds star that was known for sliding into bases head first at a time when most ballplayers slid feet first. “I used to slide into bases that way so they started calling me Pete.” The nickname has stuck long past Pete Rose’s career.

“They (WCSO staff) call us the ‘magic people’ because we make it happen. We are a big family and we can make it work,” Cochran added.
When you get sent to jail the last thing on your mind is wondering whether the locks work. The maintenance crew has to worry about it since there are more than 80 locks in the facility. Each jail lock is custom made and costs $1,400 each. There is an eight to 12 week build time for new locks. Cochran knows that the jail cannot operate with locks that don’t work so he has an organizational plan where back up locks can be used to replace malfunctioning locks.

Some of the tasks include balancing tires or working on the airboat. A new door was added at the sally port to replace an old worn out door that created headaches for both the deputies dropping off inmates and detention staff processing inmates. Old and worn out washing machines have been replaced and plans are underway to replace three air conditioning units on the facility roof and coordinate the roof leak repairs.

The maintenance crew supervises the inmates when they work on projects such as landscaping, cleaning or physical labor. “We try not to outsource anything,” said Cochran.
“Most people within the agency have their area of expertise, but we do it all,” said Cochran. “When the fire alarm went off we got it back in operation and turned off the alarm so people could work. We repaired the corroded wire. If we would have called out the fire alarm people it would have cost $600.”

With a lot going on behind the scenes, Cochran and his crew must account for every penny that is spent. “I have to explain every invoice for every dime and where it goes and match the invoices with the orders,” he added. “At the same time, our number one goal is safety for all employees and inmates. It’s all in a day’s work.”
There will be new work on the horizon as the maintenance crew will also be responsible for the new 6,000 square foot Wakulla Sheriff’s Office Annex once it is constructed and the doors open to WCSO staff next year.
The maintenance yard has a work area for the fleet vehicles as well as a welding location, wood shop, vehicle paint booth and a lift for vehicles that require attention.

“Pete and the crew do a fabulous job,” said Sheriff Creel. “It is extremely important to be cost conscience in this age of budget cutting. We have found ways to do things better, faster and cheaper and we are very proud of our operation.”

So there is a little insight into what our maintenance crew does on a daily basis. We simply could not operate without them. Our deep thanks go out to Pete, Delano, Gene and Matt for the great work they do.
I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season as we say goodbye to 2013 and wish everyone a safe and prosperous 2014.

 

Delano Taylor and Pete Cochran inspect the WCSO fire protection system.

Pete Cochran and Matt Slavens discuss the painting project in the EOC.

Gene Darby welding a road patrol vehicle safety cage with Pete Cochran.

 

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