While there hasn’t been a major snowfall yet this semester, preparation for the snow is something always occurring behind the scenes at SRU.
Dallas Cott, assistant director of campus services, has been in that role since 2011, and oversees a lot of the planning for combating the winter weather.
“My job is to make sure that my guys have the resources that they need,” Cott said.
Cott said resources include purchasing equipment, supplies like salt or ice melt and hiring new staff along with budgeting. Cott said that there were major improvements that needed to be made when he started six years ago, with the university only having one dump truck and salt spreader to cover the entire campus. Now the university has four spreaders.
Cott also works closely with Ed Grossman, campus ground supervisor, who oversees the front line snow removal operations.
“In the past it was kind of different,” Cott said. “When people were called out it was only one or two who were called out, but [Ed] changed that and brings pretty much the entire crew in because it’s such a big campus.”
A big improvement was deciding how many total miles the campus consists of, so each piece of equipment and worker knew their respective route.
Having the numbers allowed for Cott to also add a new utility vehicle with a snow plow and spreader, which is mainly used in the quad and has helped improve response time.
“Without knowing the miles that we do it would have been hard for me to justify another piece of equipment to the powers that be,” Cott said. “When you have numbers it really helps.”
Cott said there are 40 acres of parking lots and 13 miles of sidewalks on campus, with most sidewalks 6 ft. wide meaning they have to be plowed twice, totally 26 miles. There are also 5 miles of roads throughout campus and 1,135 steps. With the size of the steps, workers have to remove the snow without the user of heavy equipment.
“Everybody is assigned a route that they’re familiar with and they can go and scout it out ahead of time to know what they need to do,” Cott said. “If they feel they need to tweak something, they’ll come and say this area may need changed, there’s more traffic here.”
SRU’s custodial department also helps with snow removal, having to shovel and spread an ice melt 25 ft from each building entrance.
While the true shift of the snow removal team may be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., most of the time the process starts at 5 a.m., and sometimes workers are trying to keep the campus clear all day.
“They’ve worked 21 out of 24 hours before because when they get here it’s snowing and it doesn’t really let up,” Cott said. “At some point we have to send them home to get some sleep so they’re rested and safe. It’s a lot of work for these guys. Overall most of our guys do a job and they take a lot of pride in presenting a safe clean campus for everybody that’s here.”
Different types of weather are a large issue for the team, with freezing rain being the most difficult to clear.
“No matter what we do in a freezing rain storm we’re going to lose,” Cott said. “We could be out there salting but if it’s a true freezing rainstorm it’ll melt and then instantly refreeze. It’s one of those things where you think you’re good and then suddenly everything turns to ice and people are slipping.”
With the parking issue on campus also on the rise, Cott said that will add another aspect to adapt to, since the team would often push snow to a few spots in parking lots.
“We’ll push snow to a certain area, pile it up as much as we can, then on a weekend we’ll lift that snow and push it further into the grass or even haul it different places,” Cott said. “We’ll try to clean that up so we’re not taking up parking spots with pile of snow.”
The addition of new equipment, including trucks with plows and four spreaders that can also salt routes. Cott’s department as 15 full time employees, four temporary employees and some students that help with shoveling. Even with the supplies and the amount of workers, the job can still be 24/7. Cott and Grossman are always looking at forecasts and trying to plan ahead.
“A couple of years ago you guys [Ed’s team] were in here 20 days in a row,” Cott said. “At some point you have to clean up the snow. It’s a lot of work and every snow is different.”
With the snow removal team constantly having to adapt, Cott said the main goal is to get better every year.
“It’ll never be perfect but if we can get better every year; that’s the goal,” Cott said. “Something with mother nature can never be perfect, it doesn’t work like that. We try to be as clean as possible here and as safe as possible.”