The daily grind

Five-man community services crew does it all

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By AMANDA KIMBLE
TheFlashToday.com

STEPHENVILLE (November 13, 2016) – More than 200 park acres, a mile-and-a-half of Bosque River Trail, grounds at the airport, museum, library, downtown plaza and public safety training fields are regularly mowed, trimmed, edged and cleaned of lawn clippings and debris. Add to the lawn and landscaping duties building maintenance at each of those facilities, plus the senior center, public library, city hall, municipal service center, public restrooms, concession stands and playgrounds at the city’s parks…

Don’t forget the recreation hall, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, Splashville, playgrounds…. That’s just greenspace, facilities, equipment and furnishings. With new tennis courts, tennis lessons would be beneficial, if this is something you’re interested in you can check out, playing tennis near me. There are also events – fundraisers, summer concerts, tournaments… And there’s trash, a lot of trash – things washed up by the rain, litter left behind by people visiting city facilities and waste filled barrels across the properties.

Sometimes they are carpenters, welder, installers of irrigation lines, painters, assemblers…

Public service is a demanding job, and the five men who take on the aforementioned tasks – and just about any other maintenance-related issue that arises in the city of Stephenville – stay busy. They’re jacks of all trades and they’ve have mastered most of them.

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Jesus Coronado, parks superintendent, said a typical summer workday for his crew could include the cleaning of restrooms and collecting trash across city parks that morning, followed by mowing and edging of the park grounds around lunchtime and preparing for a summer concert later in the afternoon. But even then, the day’s work isn’t complete.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that the same guy who mowed is the same guy who is there at midnight picking things up,” Parks Property Superintendent Gaylon Elston said.

Elston signed on with the city almost two decades ago. He was hired to maintain the medians along Wolfe Nursery Road, push mowing from one end to the other and back again. Sometime later, a new hire expanded the crew to two city workers and increased the assigned duties. The workload continued to grow, requiring the full-time attention of four men.

While the workload is more than some men could handle, each these guys has established a tenure that’s a testament to his dedication. They take their work seriously – it’s more than just a job, it’s a career.

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Elston has been employed with the department for 19 years. Quentin Noel has been on board for about 17 years. Rick Price and Cody Stone have each held their positions for 10 years.

Coronado, who held a similar role with the city of Grand Prairie, signed on about six months ago and hired a fifth crew member, Jared Davis, in October. His primary responsibility is maintaining athletic fields.

Just weeks into his new gig, Davis is well acquainted with the realities of the job

“By the time you get to the end of a list of things to do, it’s time to start mowing again,” he said. “And new things have been added to the bottom of the list.”

While drought and dry spells create problems, wet years mean extra work. Torrential downpours last spring spurred a “definite increase” in responsibility.

“About the time we got through cleaning up from one flood, another one came through,” Price recalled. “So, we started all over again.”

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In those times, when things are at their worst, the public sometimes criticizes the crew. Displeased citizens begin to voice their frustrations about the condition of city facilities, asking why they are closed or not up to their usual standards – too much water, too much mud, too many pot holes. Sometimes they criticize staffers for not doing their jobs.

Coronado said dealing with upset patrons can be part of the job, but it is as essential as the hours of labor his staff logs.

“Customer service is a big part of what we do,” he said. “We are here to make people happy so they can relax and have a good time.”

In his short time with the city, Coronado said he’s seen the good in community members. He cited a Bosque River Cleanup Day organized by the city following last spring’s floods. Officials made public appeals on social media and through media outlets, asking members of the public to lend a hand at city park. The river had spilled over at least a few times, covering the park in trash, debris and sand from the river bottom.

“There was a good turnout (of citizens and other people),” Coronado said. “About 20 people from Allsup’s showed up and took on the task of cleaning the tennis courts that were covered in sand and mud. They even donated water and supplies for the people volunteering.”

Crew members referenced Tarleton Roundup, the university’s annual service project. Faculty, staff, students and other volunteers band together to help clean up Bosque River and other areas of the city.

When asked about other perks of job, each of the men said they enjoyed the work and the camaraderie from coworkers and supervisors who provide support and assistance. They also said they are grateful for the medical insurance, vacation time, sick leave and retirement benefits not available to other hard working members of the members.

Coronado said his love for the job has a lot to do with nostalgia and memories of his own childhood. He said when he was young, memories were created on park grounds – not in front of a television screen, while playing a video game.

“The park is where we went to have fun,” she said.

Price, who came to Stephenville 22 years ago to visit his brother-in-law, said the same spirit that lead him to uproot his family and move them from California fuels his daily work. He said that single visit showed him a lot about the area and an attitude he had never experienced.

“They (local residents) had pride in their state, pride for football and everything around them,” he said. “We didn’t have that in California, and I didn’t want to raise my kids there. My daughter was four and my son was six months old when we moved here. They grew up in Morgan Mill, and I remember watching them playing flag football and having fun at Fish Day in the Park.”

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Price said those memories are ones that he values most. The also inspire him work his hardest every day so that other families can enjoy the same experiences.

“That’s why we all take pride in what we do,” Elston agreed.

Sure, there are things they might change in a perfect world. The crew be a little larger. There could be a litter crew, construction crew and building maintenance. Citizens and visitors to the park could do their part by disposing of their trash and leaving the public facilities and equipment in the condition in which they were found.

“That kind of community involvement really helps out,” Coronado said. “In Grand Prairie we had a community cleanup day at the parks. It created a sense of ownership and pride in our parks. It also helped make community members more conscious about the work that goes into maintaining the properties, as well as the importance of taking care of them and using the trash cans.”

But the men who have been on staff for several years, those who’ve worked under the direction of several different supervisors and a former director will tell you things are better than they’ve ever been. They will say that Community Services Director Jeremy Allen knows they work hard and understands when they cannot take on another project and live up to public expectations. They will also tell you they know they are valued employees, sharing their sense of pride with citizens.

“When I go out and see people at the park, enjoying the facilities and kids playing, I am reminded of how hard these guys work just to allow all of that to happen,” Coronado said.

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