SAN MARCOS — Since the onset of COVID-19 in March, the Facilities team at Palomar College has overcome unique challenges to maintain a mostly empty campus while meeting new sanitization and social distancing requirements.

Some of the staff are working remotely, while many remain on campus fulfilling essential duties. In early July, the Facilities Department was asked to move a library book drop to the main parking lot so that students can return books without coming onto campus.

“We’re trying to make it easy for people to just come in and out,” explained Jeff Bennett, Supervisor of Building Services.

The one thing the book box lacked was a shelf to provide sanitizing wipes for anyone touching the handle. Enter Palomar’s in-house welder and fabricator, James Davis, who is known by many on campus as “Davey.”

“Davey got some material out and made one,” said Bennett, Davis’ supervisor. “We bolted the bucket down, and you can pull the cover off and replace the towels.”

The unprompted innovation might seem like a small gesture, but it represents many unseen efforts by the Facilities team to meet the unique challenges of COVID-19, said Interim Superintendent/President Dr. Jack Kahn.

“Our hard-working Facilities staff have been instrumental in keeping essential functions on track during the COVID-19 health crisis,” said Dr. Kahn. “We really appreciate their dedication and commitment to keeping our students and employees healthy and safe, and for being a dependable presence on campus during these trying times.”

Bennett said the book drop bracket became the prototype for the 30 or so that he estimates Davis will ultimately fabricate to place in facilities that remain in use during the health crisis. So far, there are 15 of the units placed around campus.

“We’ve bolted them on to walls and metal studs in the buildings,” said Bennett. “Everybody needs those wipes now for everything.”

The mounts are made out of aluminum and hold a refillable bucket of sanitizing towelettes, which Bennett said saves the college money because the smaller disposable packages of wipes are more expensive.

Overall, Bennett said, COVID-19 has drastically changed how the team operates: “We have to work individually now to make sure we’re distancing. I think we’ve all adjusted pretty well to this. There’s so much work at the college, it’s never-ending.”