Summer heat bumps up

With temperatures hovering around Amazon jungle levels in past weeks, Jim Blake, a University facilities supervisor, found himself asking his staff of gardeners and maintenance workers to take a few extra precautions.
There’s the usual “drink more water” and “wear a hat so your head doesn’t get roasted.” On the extra hot days when water and sprinklers are in short supply, Blake finds himself asking a special favor: “Don’t forget to hide the hoses and sprinklers.”
In addition to hefty electricity and water bills associated with summer air conditioning and nonstop watering, University groundskeepers are dealing with a not-so-rare occurrence on campus: hose and sprinkler theft.
Near Northrop Auditorium, where the hose-greedy prefer to prey, maintenance crews have had to spend extra time packing up all the hoses every night and hauling them back with them, only to drag them back out the next morning.
Despite efforts by Blake and police to track down and reclaim stolen property — which is clearly marked and easily identified — 50 of the $30 hoses were purchased this summer, most of which went toward replacing the missing ones.
Aside from expenses related to delinquency, heat waves have cost the University money in more customary ways.
For ground crews, watering everything from freshly laid sod, new trees, flowers and acres of lawn forced Blake to work his staff at least six days per week, increasing his costs up to 25 percent, most of which have gone toward overtime wages.
While the watering kept the grass green, Blake and his gang of 12 full-time gardeners and about 60 part-time student workers have had to do more than the usual one mow per week. “That’s the bitter pill you have to swallow,” Blake said. “When you water it grows like crazy.”

— Kane Loukas