Former TUSD Athletic Director claims year-long unsanitary conditons

KGUN9 gets answers from TUSD Operations Chief

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -
Filthy and stinky bathrooms and locker rooms. Unsanitary conditions of athletic facilities described by a former TUSD Athletic Director at two high schools over the past two years.
 
Harvey Thompson is coming forward now after he left the district to explain his fight to get athletic facilities cleaned up. And KGUN9 not only gets answers from the man in charge of the TUSD facilities, we learn what issues exist district wide.
 
After more than a decade at TUSD Harvey Thompson landed his dream job -- as Athletic Director at Santa Rita and Catalina High School -- over the past two years. He's a TUSD grad and had played UA basketball for Lute Olsen in the early 80's. He's used to sports battles, but not this. He says he's fought what he calls year-long unsanitary conditions in the athletic facilities. And he snapped pictures at the beginning of the past two school years because he said he realized many of the problems took a long time to occur.
 
"I saw bathrooms were dirty. Locker rooms were filthy. Toilets backed up. Sinks not cleaned. Things not sanitized," he said. 
 
He shows KGUN9 reporter a picture of a bathroom stall. "That is water on the floor and as you can see for the toilet paper, it can hit the floor. And it becomes unsanitized." 
 
Black plastic bags covered a few of the urinals in the locker room bathroom. He said the urine smell was so bad that it was difficult to breath in.
 
"When you walk into a locker room and it has no doors on the stalls where a person can't have privacy at all to use the bathroom. It's a very sad situation and it's very embarrassing," he said. We checked online and with another school district and discovered replacement doors cost about $150 each for students to have privacy for something so personal.
 
And in the weight room, a photo shows the rug underneath the equipment was worn and torn.
 
"My concern was blood pathogens and when you have carpet in a facility like this. It has to be shampooed every day. And I know for a fact that these areas were not shampooed at all. It's great potential for MRSA," he said.
 
At Santa Rita, picture shows a flattened dead rat and broken television on the tennis court for at least a month. He wrote out a long list and included pictures of athletic facilities that needed to be cleaned up and sanitized.
 
He says the unsanitary conditions for students lasted weeks, months and in some cases all year long.
 
And before games throughout the school year -- before competing teams arrived and used the locker room -- Thompson would clean up because he says custodians showed up late or didn't show up at all. He called the conditions embarrassing.
 
"I put on my work boots and mopped floors and cleaned bathrooms myself" and sometimes solicited the help of students, he said. 
 
KGUN9 investigative reporter Valerie Cavazos sat down with the man in charge of the facilities district wide -- Chief Operations Officer -- Stuart Duncan. Cavazos laid out all of Thompson's pictures before Stuart and read off all of Thompson's concerns.
 
"I would say that a majority of these are cosmetic. Not health (or safety) issues," Stuart repeated a handful of times. He referred to the cracked ceiling tiles  at both schools, damaged bathroom items, and calcium build up in locker room showers and drinking fountains.
 
Cosmetic or not Thompson said he went to each of his superiors at both schools several times and they told him "We'll get to it."
 
"They said a lot of schools are like this and it caught me by surprise. Just write it down and we'll have a meeting over this. And that would be it," said Thompson.
 
But the Chief Operations Officer says he and his facility crews get to it if they know about it  through work orders. "That's what the principal, athletic director and officer manager are supposed to do. My estimate is a complaint was made and no work order filed. So that's a lack of the person taking the time to fill a work order to get something done," said Duncan.
 
Duncan said he has a competent staff of 125 employees who provide facility work in different areas -- crafts, plumbing, roofing, irrigation, grounds, HVAC, etc. And if school custodians and engineers can't do the work, he said, "he provides the extra level of expertise."
 
Even if a work order is filed that doesn't mean the problems would be fixed right away.  Duncan says all the high school buildings are more than 4 decades old and though the structures are sound the critical components, like roofing as well as heating and cooling systems, are wearing out and need to be replaced.  "So we're kind of spinning our wheels to do a lot of repairs because you repair it and it falls back in disrepair right away," said Duncan.
 
At Catalina Magnet HS, the most recent Asset Detail Report shows roofing in some areas needed immediate attention -- the estimated cost in October 2015 was over $1.2 million dollars.
 
Cavazos: That was a year ago. The work has not been done.
Duncan: Correct, the work has not been done.
Cavazos: Why so?
Duncan: We don't have the money to do that.
 
He said, "The budget to keep things at a band aid repair is $8 to 9 million dollars a year. In 2009, capital funding (to replace critical components) went away."
 
In fact, he says the district needs $110 million dollars just to address the critical safety needs, which take priority. "There's a difference between having a student deal with 82 degree temperatures trying to learn versus hard water on the floor," he said.
 
Duncan says he's walked through the Catalina campus many times throughout the year, but didn't see what Thompson snapped with his camera. He says Catalina has 9 custodians to deal with the issues that concerned Thompson.
 
Cavazos asked Duncan, "Do you have enough custodians to do the amount of work you want done?"
He replied, "That's a good question. We have a ratio and number reviewed by consultants who say maybe we could use a lot more. If we had better funding for that, we could improve that ratio."
 
After we sent these photos to the district, a few days later we received pictures that show the urinals has been fixed and the weight room rug ripped out and replaced. The district wrote that the changes happened over the summer. But still no doors in the bathroom stalls. Duncan said they don't have doors in the stalls and it isn't an issue.
 
Those changes, Thompson said, made an entire school year later.
 
Smelly urinals, backed up toilets, unsanitary surfaces -- all health and safety issues Thompson argues needed to be addressed.  "I'm agreeing with those types of things. At a given time, if you have that situation, if should be addressed differently," said Duncan.
 
Thompson says he's relieved that at least the long-term issues he's fought to fix are on the district's radar and hopes when sanitary issues are raised by staff and student athletes they won't have to wait a year for them to be fixed.
 
 
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