City mechanics drive Odessa
August 9 — They work in relative darkness. What they do is often dirty and thankless work. But the dozen men and women who make up the Odessa City Equipment Services Department literally move the city every day.
The staff of Eddie Molinar, Garage Manager of Equipment Services, is responsible for the maintenance and repair of more than 900 urban vehicles, ranging from lawn mowers, ambulances, fire trucks, vehicles to police and sanitation trucks.
“We are responsible for all vehicles in the city – from the cradle to the grave,” Molinar said. “I’m proud of my staff – they turn the wheels on for Odessa.”
Responsibility for his department begins with ordering new vehicles that are delivered “right to our door,” Molinar said. Once the staff have completed the requested changes, the vehicles are sent to their respective departments.
In addition to performing regular maintenance on urban vehicles such as oil and filter changes, tire and spark plug replacement, staff also take care of repairs such as windshield replacement. cracked and broken wings.
“Our biggest customers are the cops,” Molinar said with a chuckle. “They come in with damaged bumpers and dents all the time.”
In fact, many vehicles in the city suffer a lot of wear and tear due to their heavy use, he said. For example, sanitation trucks are also on the road all day, every day.
Odessa pioneered its own vehicle repair service 40 years ago, Molinar said. It is more common to see municipalities looking after their own fleet of vehicles.
“It saves money and time,” Molinar said. The internal system allows the city to limit repair and maintenance problems and get vehicles back on the road faster.
The employees of the service are aware of the role they play in the success of the city.
Regular maintenance is very important for the life of city vehicles, which are paid for with taxpayer money, said lubricant technician Rebecca Lujan.
Lujan and his fellow lubrication technicians Ryan Proffitt and Michael Lynn work on dozens of city vehicles every week.
“Changing the oil and filters regularly is necessary if you want vehicles to last longer,” said Lujan. “It also helps keep vehicles running efficiently. “
Lujan, who was hired by the city 5 years ago, is the first woman to work in the department since its creation over 40 years ago.
“It was a bit awkward at first,” said Lujan, who earned an associate’s degree in automotive and diesel mechanics from Odessa College. “All the guys looked at me until they realized I knew what I was doing and they could say things around me without being offended.”
This is a small but tight-knit group which is necessary as employees have to constantly work together, especially when tackling larger vehicles.
Supervisor Bill Smith, who oversees repairs to larger vehicles in the department, said his staff always worked on multiple cars at the same time.
“A lot of times a mechanic will have to stop working on a vehicle while we wait for a part to arrive,” Smith said.
It’s not an isolated problem, says Molinar. COVID-19 shut down most manufacturers in 2020, and they are now trying to catch up with demand.
“Obtaining parts has become a problem, but it is a problem nationwide,” Molinar said. “It’s a battle for coins.”
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