Clean goes green at Government Center

Until recently, Washington County Government Center custodians worked the night shift cleaning offices with an arsenal of chemical products, a lot of cotton rags and keeping lights on late into the evening.
But in June, center custodians went to a day shift cleaning schedule, reduced the number of cleaning solutions used and went to micro-fiber cloths and low-decibel, high-efficiency vacuums.
The changes are two months old and have led to energy savings and improved cleaning staff morale, said county Building Manager Greg Wood.
“A healthier building is the direct result of cleaning buildings in an environmentally sensitive way,” he told the Board of Commissioners during an update on the program Tuesday.
Wood said the switch in the cleaning schedule and products used began with planning in January. County building officials spoke with private companies that switched to daytime cleaning and Hennepin County, which began daytime cleaning several years ago, Wood added.
Custodians underwent training for the schedule change in June, Wood said. A major focus of that training was “social interaction” between custodians and staff members in the offices custodians are cleaning, he added. Training also focused on cleaning techniques and being professionally “stealth,” or cleaning “with minimal interruption,” according to Wood.
Along with the new 6 a.m.-to-6 p.m. cleaning schedule, Wood said building services staff looked for more “green” ways to clean. That philosophy includes using green cleaning products, micro-fiber towels that can be washed 500 times and quieter vacuums, he added.
“We use three primary chemicals now,” he said, adding that the basic cleaning product is an electrically charged, chemical-free solution.
“We’re cleaning our offices with water,” he said.
Wood said the switch to daytime cleaning resulted in a five to seven percent reduction in energy use at the Government Center, or actual cost savings of $50,000 to $70,000.
Currently, only Washington, Hennepin and Olmstead counties have switched to daylight cleaning, Wood said.
Although the program is in its early stages, Wood said employees have reacted well to the changes.
“The custodians feel like they are part of the departments they work in,” he said. “We’ve been receiving excellent feedback on this program.”
While commissioners seemed pleased with the results from the change, Lisa Weik and Dennis Hegberg both raised the possibility of contracting out the cleaning service.
“We have not (looked at contracting) but we can look into that,” Wood said.
In other actions, commissioners:
n Named Commissioners Gary Kriesel and Autumn Lehrke to the 2012 canvas board that will certify Aug. 14 primary election results. Other Canvas Board members are Assistant County Administrator Kevin Corbid, who serves as county auditor-treasurer, Woodbury Mayor Mary Guiliani Stephens and the county court administrator.
The Canvas Board meets at 1 p.m. Aug. 17.
n Meeting as the  Regional Railroad Authority, approved a memorandum of understanding with the county and state Department of Transportation for planning and construction of a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 61 and County Roads 4 and 4A in Hugo, and a resolution granting a highway easement to the county on WCRRA right-of-way on the west side of U.S. 61.