By Emily Reed
When things changed this year due to COVID-19, UM Physical Plant Director Coty Jones was quick to step up with ideas to ensure students the ability to return to campus.
“One of the biggest challenges with helping students to prepare to come to campus was balancing everything with the constantly changing realities and understanding of COVID-19,” Jones said.
Through his role, Jones manages, supervises and provides professional direction of a comprehensive infrastructure management program at the University.
Some of his responsibilities include facilities planning, space administration, construction management, facilities maintenance and repair, renovations, utilities generation and distribution; custodial, landscape, auto mechanical, receiving and related services.
Jones has worked for the University for almost 11 years.
When the pandemic presented challenges to colleges around the country considering reopening strategies for students on campus, Jones worked to install barriers where necessary, add hand sanitizer stations and incorporate electrostatic ionization sanitizing to the University’s daily cleaning routines.
“It was important to ensure that the University could resume in-person activities while trying to mitigate the virus as best as possible,” Jones said. “What is great about the Physical Plant and the University of Montevallo is everyone pitches in to help each other accomplish a task.”
While Jones’ job responsibilities did not change when dealing with issues surrounding COVID-19, he said everything he worked on became more enhanced.
“For example, we had to completely re-work the custodial schedule and outsource some overnight cleaning to handle all of the cleaning and sanitizing requirements,” Jones said. “Another example is that we have always been part of the Emergency Preparedness Team, but this team was enhanced and made into a COVID-19 task force so that we could plan, organize and flatten the curve for the pandemic.”
Jones was awarded the 2020 Outstanding Staff Service Award, which was presented virtually during the University’s Founders’ Day in October.
Dr. Kristy Lee, vice president for administration and liaison to the board of trustees, said Jones’ dedication to his job has never been more apparent than during the current pandemic.
“When the campus has experienced any potential COVID-19 hazards, such as individuals on campus testing positive for the disease, Jones has personally cleaned and sanitized the area in question,” she said.
Kira Thomas, director of the UM Marketing and Communications Office, nominated Jones for the award, and Marion Brown, facility and event scheduling director, Lee and Mary Ellen Heuton submitted letters of recommendation.
“Rarely do people realize the incredible workload he shoulders,” Brown said. “On several occasions, I have witnessed him work through the night, through a weekend and during holidays to keep our beautiful campus running smoothly.”
When Jones first learned that he was going to receive the award he said a couple of his nominators and the Alumni Office played a trick on him, presenting him with a project that was going to be a challenge to do.
“I was up for the task, but as I looked at the details of the plans I saw the congratulations on the banner,” Jones said. “It took me a minute to see it, they waited and said ‘surprise,’ and I was shocked and turned off my Zoom. I do not like being in the limelight and this really took me by surprise, but I was honored and humbled.”
Jones said he loves the buildings, history and traditions at UM, but overall it is the people that make the University great.
“Seeing how people came together to complete a common goal, and being a part of a team that listens to each other, is compassionate for each other, and works with each other is great,” Jones said.