Jul 16, 2015

Long-time county maintenance and custodial staffers retire

Park County recently said goodbye to a couple employees with nearly 50 years of combined experience in keeping up the county’s buildings.

Building manager Dennis Spargur, who’d been with the county for nearly 18 years, and Louise Kelly, a custodian with 31 years of county service, each retired at the end of April.

Dennis Spargur's and Louise Kelly's service to the county was honored, in part, with a cake. Cody News Co. photos by CJ Baker
“They were a wonderful 31 years,” Kelly said at a retirement ceremony that month.

“I enjoyed working with everybody I’ve worked with. Some of them were hard to work with, but it didn’t matter — you still learned something,” she said, adding, “I’ve learned a lot being here and I would hope everybody that works here learned like I did.”

Louise Kelly
Spargur, who also spent a couple years as the head of the overall buildings and grounds department, expressed similar appreciation for his co-workers and the county commissioners.

“We’ve got some of the best county employees around,” he said, adding, “I’ve had the privilege to work with almost all of them, and I will miss their smiling faces every morning.”

In an interview, Spargur recalled how his maintenance duties changed during his nearly two decades of service:

the maintenance division expanded from two to seven employees; their responsibilities grew from the care of just a few county buildings to effectively caring for all of them; modern heating and cooling systems now allow staffers to remotely check the temperature of individual rooms, using just their computers.

The job wasn’t without it’s crises.

Late one winter night, a sprinkler head in the old Cody library building froze and began spewing water. Fortunately, the system was being monitored by the security company Kenco and they noticed the malfunction. More fortunately, when Spargur rushed down to the library, “the sprinkler head broke away from the books and was just spraying the windows ... which was miraculous,” he recalled.

Inmates at the county jail caused some maintenance trouble, too.

At the old jail, located near the courthouse, some inmate intent on smoking forced Spargur to repeatedly reset the facility’s electrical breakers. Inmates weren’t allowed to have cigarettes, but could buy chewing tobacco and gum. So “they would take the chewing tobacco, dry it out, roll it up in a piece of paper, take the tin foil off of the gum wrapper, stick it in an outlet and when it arced, they would light their cigarette,” Spargur recalled.

“This practice didn’t happen for very long until the sheriff’s office took away all tobacco products,” he said with a laugh.

The problems didn’t end with the construction of the current Park County Detention Center. Shortly after it opened, an inmate climbed up on his bunk and intentionally broke a sprinkler head.

Dennis Spargur
“The jailers hadn’t (yet) been trained where the shut-off valve was, so before I arrived, the water was about a foot-and-a-half deep in the cell — and giving the prisoner a nice shower,” Spargur laughed.

He and another maintenance staffer, Larry Kite, ultimately came up with a way to make the sprinkler heads less accessible while still in compliance with fire regulations.

County commissioners and other county staffers wished Spargur and Kelly well at the April reception.

“It’s going to be a little bit rough for us,” Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Mike Garza said of losing the experience.

Spargur knows more courthouse nooks and crannies than perhaps anyone, Garza said.

“He has a wealth of knowledge in that head of his, but he has assured us he will still answer phone calls if we ever catch him in cell service,” Garza said.

Spargur could be a little hard to reach this summer: he’s currently working on a maintenance crew at the Old Faithful area in Yellowstone National Park.

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