Snowfall means more work for Facilities Management employees

by Brad Ellingson

Snow is finally on the ground, and more is expected to accumulate. For students the onset of winter usually means more time inside studying, watching movies or covered in blankets.

But for University Facilities Management workers, snow is a four-letter word that demands their concurrent participation in three other four-letter words: “more,” “work” and “cold.”

As more snow hits the ground, Facilities Management officials are faced with longer hours, depending on the amount of precipitation.

Les Potts, a ground superintendent for Facilities Management, said the University budget for landcare snow removal is approximately $500,000 annually. Potts said the budget does not include parking lots or ramps, which the Department of Parking and Transportation Services include in their budget.

“Life is not good when you underbudget in a snowy year, and life is good when you overbudget in an unsnowy year,” said Dennis Miller, an assistant director in Parking and Transportation Services.

Facilities Management officials are responsible for various duties to combat Mother Nature around campus.

Snow fences are frequently used to prevent snow drifts. These orange-colored fences can been seen on Northrop Mall and often outside of construction sites.

Potts said open areas are most susceptible to large amounts of snow accumulation, but the main concern is snow blowing across sidewalks and streets.

“Northrop Mall, you get the wind coming in from the northwest and it will funnel in right down through there,” Potts said.

Because of the uncertainty of weather, Potts said he utilizes the Internet and radar data to figure out weather patterns.

“It’s really kind of crapshoot; we’ve learned not to rely on the weatherman,” Potts said.

Even before the first snowflake hits the ground, Facilities Management officials are busy preparing for seasonal changes.

“We have to get all our equipment ready,” Potts said.

“Major snow removal mobilizations typically occur when accumulations reach or exceed three inches,” states the Parking and Transportation Web site.

“Our goal is once the walk gets covered, we activate a crew,” Potts said. He also said the crew sometimes gets called late at night and works overtime during winter.

Freshman Joe Lowinske, a Facilities Management worker, said he is mainly responsible for shoveling and salting walkways.

“It’s a good to way to make money Ö since everyone’s pretty much a poor college student,” Lowinske said.

Even though the University prepares for winter in numerous ways, every year brings new challenges.

“There’s not much you can do about it, because you live in Minnesota,” said Dennis Miller, an assistant director in Parking and Transportation Services.