Somebody's Gotta Do It: Fleet Maintenance Shop

If just keeping your family's car or several cars repaired and maintained sometimes seems like a big headache to you, imagine if you had to keep up with almost 2,000 of them?

The City of Wichita Falls Fleet Maintenance Shop has to keep track of and maintain 1800 pieces of equipment, so Photojournalist Jake VanDonge and Gwyn Bevel headed out in our Somebody's Gotta Do It Series to see what it takes to keep the city in motion.

Fleet Maintenance Supervisor Jeff Badder says, "We make sure that the vehicle when it rolls out of the shop that is it safe to roll down the road.  That is our main goal to make sure we continue to put a product out that is good and safe when it rolls out of the shop."

There is not a lot of down time in Mechanic Donald McEwen's day.

Donald McEwen says, "I've already removed the wheel and we've already determined the brakes are bad.  It needs rotors and pad, so that is where we are going to go from here.  We are constantly working keeping the other departments going."

Without this maintenance crew many of Wichita Falls' city services would stop dead in their tracks. 

McEwen, a seven year veteran, is part of a team that keeps the city rolling.

McEwen:  "This time of year we are getting busy with new vehicles, this is when all the new vehicles come in whether it police cars, trucks, motorcycles comes in.  Police cars have to have lights, cameras, partitions, seats and stuff like that installed.  Pickups have to have tool boxes, headache racks and decals."

That's in addition to maintaining everything from animal control vehicles, sanitation trucks and even lawnmowers.

It's summer so just as the temperature climbs inside the shop, so does the number of cars with air conditioning issues among other things.

McEwen:  "You want to do this if you can.  Just put it on there and squeeze the trigger."

This job was one Donald, unlike Gwyn, has done hundreds of times.  It is a brake job.

There are all kinds of jobs that keep the department's welders busy.

Mike Woodard says, "We work on all of the city vehicles, the backhoes, trucks, trailers, out at the airport.  We do work pretty much everywhere, but this is job security right there!"

The welders maintain 400 dumpsters.

Woodard: "I've showed a lot of people the ropes around here, over the years."

Mike Woodard has been a city welder for a decade, so after a friendly wager with coworkers he became Gwyn's trainer.

Woodard: "Just try to keep that wire out about just like that, you should be good."

So could Gwyn beat the rookie with her first ever bead weld?

Woodard: "You want to just try to keep it in the groove there, that wire it is almost just like you are drawing.  You are just letting that wire fill that groove in."

Kind of like drawing, huh?  It took Gwyn a while to find her groove.

Woodard says, "There you go fill in that groove, a little too fast, a little too fast. 

Gwyn says, "Okay we know now that I should stick to my job and let Mike do his.  That is what we have learned here today."

Woodard: "Not too bad, Gwyn."

Gwyn says, "Oh no that is terrible!"

In all 32 people make up the Fleet Maintenance crew and it doesn't look like Gwyn will make up number 33.

Which is why once again our crew decided to leave it in the hands of the professionals.

Badder:  "All the guys come together to accomplish the same goal.  They are the best!  I would put them up against anybody.
The fleet maintenance shop makes sure every piece of equipment that rolls out of this shop is safe!

The city's main shop stays open 12 hours a day.

The service center is open 24 hours a day, six days a week.

The fuel budget alone for the city's fleet is about 3 million dollars a year.

Badder says they always do their best to accommodate all the departments on whatever they need, but they do have priorities and they go police, fire then sanitation.

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