Worth James: a ballad of junk
Few people know, and perhaps even fewer wonder, what becomes of the university’s misfit projectors, outdated computers and worn office furniture once their usefulness has expired.
Those whose curiosities are piqued by the idea of a structure packed full of these things imagine what such a place might be like.
Could it be akin to the enormous vault of crated artifacts in the final scene of Spielberg’s 1981 classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark? Or maybe the relics accumulate dust in the deep dark recesses of an underground tomb, like cans of nonperishable food in a Red Scare fallout shelter.
But alas, the methods with which the university takes out the trash are hardly as glamorous as the aforementioned.
Instead, the items are painstakingly processed out of each department’s inventory and stored in an old warehouse, where they wait to be hauled off to a redistribution facility a few miles south of campus.
The process is what the ladies and gentlemen at Facilities Management call “M&R”, simply meaning marketing and redistribution.
“M&R is currently a free service to remove your property from your office or classroom, granted that many times we have a huge backlog to deal with,” explains Sandra Vail, director of facilities services. “We try to do it as fast as we can, but we only have a limited amount of personnel that can do what needs to be done.”
When a state agency purchases property with government funds, it eventually has to be given back to the state — that is when marketing and redistribution comes into play.
The policy applies to every state agency, not only institutions of higher education. Evidence of M&R can be seen all across campus in the form of small barcode stickers.
These stickers are applied to many items on campus, namely computers, because they are required for all items worth more than $500.
This process can be a long and arduous one. First, the department must fill out a special form to request the process and send it to the Department of Property Accounting; second, Property Accounting removes it from the inventory of the designated department; third, a request for removal arrives at Facilities Management (or Physical Plant, as it was once called); fourth, Facilities Management sends personnel to remove the item(s); fifth, the property is then stored in a warehouse until it is eventually taken to the redistribution center on 65th Street.
That building is what staff commonly refer to as the Worth James building; a name the large, metal Quonset hut dons in homage to its previous proprietor, Worth James Construction.
Walking into the warehouse may seem a bit like walking into a tomb. According to Vail, the facility is dusty and dimly light, as one might assume, and the abundance of refuse material is overwhelming.
In some ways, the Worth James building is even more ideal to those who are curious than any fictional scenario could be.
Vail said that the process usually takes a few weeks due to the tedious process involved, and it doesn’t help that requests come in from all across a campus that is over 200 acres in size and consists of nearly 50 buildings.
Due to the scope of this process, Facilities Services has handled 2,933 units of M&R property within the last 12 months alone.
That number excludes the 428 units on backlog, which are currently waiting to be picked up and processed.
The redistribution center on 65th Street is where many state-owned items go to be sold to the public, or put back into the system.
Once the center makes a stop at UALR, nearly anyone at all can go purchase items including furniture, office supplies and computers (most of which have had the hard drives removed).
So after a lifetime of use by college students and academics alike, those that were once left for dead may be given another chance to live.