Deep within the corridors of UT’s Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Building (CPE), a piece of University history rests hidden inside a nondescript student research laboratory. Tightly wrapped in plastic, the 85-year-old key-cutting machine sits on the building’s fourth floor. In December, the University’s Lock and Key Services moved from its longtime location in the Service Building (SER) to a trailer outside CPE.
“I was surprised to hear that it was still in use when I got here in 2017. That was one of the original key machines used by the University,” says Michael Costa, the manager of building logistics and keys.
By October, the elderly piece of equipment will finally retire to its forever home: a renovated building in the shadow of CPE on Speedway. Costa plans to display the machine in the lobby of the new Lock and Key Services building along with an original sketch of SER discovered by a previous manager. SER, which opened in 1951, will be demolished to make way for the Engineering Discovery Building slated for completion in 2026.
“The Service Building was a maze,” explains Costa. “Over the years, it became a collection of different shops tucked away here and there. It really outlived its use.”
In December, Costa oversaw Lock and Key Services’ exodus from SER to its interim location. It was an arduous task centered on moving 15 large file cabinets housing the keys that unlock one of 500,000 doors around the main campus and the J.J. Pickle Research Campus. With the help of Campus Construction, each 1-ton stack made its way across campus to a holding point on the ground floor of CPE. While Costa also manages UT’s Event Support and Moving Services, as well as Solid Waste and Recycling, he found himself dedicating a lot of his time to supervising the relocation process.
“Lock and Key Services gets most of my attention right now. They’re my spoiled child!” he says laughing after proudly producing a photo of a forklift hauling one of the stacks.
Costa’s 15-person department is tiny but mighty, consisting of work control specialists who manage key distribution and locksmiths who tend to the keys and locks. Over 20,000 openers are issued annually to students, staff and faculty, but it takes a year to record and update each device’s location.
“These reports aren’t teeny-tiny,” says Teresita Gonzalez, a work control specialist tasked with auditing key distribution. “To get to every single college, we have to work from January until December.”