University News

U. staff battles snow storms with salt and plows

Brown has spent $385,000 on snow removal this winter, $200,000 less than last year’s total cost

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When it comes to snow removal, it is the events — not the inches — that matter.

For the University’s custodians and grounds crew, an “event” is any occasion when staff members must go out to remove ice or snow from campus walkways, stairs and athletic fields. This season, Brown’s crew has handled 23 events, with 11 in February alone, Vice President for Facilities Management Stephen Maiorisi said.

Since December, Facilities has handled another heavy season, though the snow cover has yet to surpass last year’s record. At 48 inches in total, the cumulative coverage is 10 inches fewer than last year’s 58 inches.

Though a difference of 10 inches seems minor, the overall cost is significantly less, Maiorisi said. Whereas Brown spent $585,000 last season, snow removal so far this year has cost $385,000. Maiorisi said he expects and hopes expenditures will not reach last year’s level.

Snow removal costs are a fraction of Facilities’ overall budget. The majority of the seasonal costs stem from employee overtime, Maiorisi said.

On snow removal alone, the custodians and grounds crew have worked a little over 2,000 hours this winter. But the number of overtime hours depends on the timing of the storms, Maiorisi said. “There were times when we maybe had just as much snow but we don’t call people for overtime, because they’re here anyway,” he said. This year, much of the work has taken place during regular weekday hours — a more difficult task for Facilities, as workers must clear snow before students trek to class, as opposed to weekends, when Facilities can take more time to clear the pavement, Maiorisi said.

A group of 150 custodians in four separate shifts manages snow at a variety of campus locations. They also remove snow from sidewalks frequented by students that “do not get plowed by current owners,” Maiorisi said.

Some students said they blame the timing of the rain and snowfall for more slippery sidewalks and some inconsistency in removal. “The first couple of snowfalls the roads were cleared and the salt was put out. But not for the most recent one,” Takeru Nagayoshi ’14 said. “I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating per se. This year we had a lot more snow.”

Thomas Abebe ’17 said workers sometimes clear snow but leave a wet layer that turns to ice in the cold weather. Though he wasn’t sure how snow removal has been handled in previous years, he said, “I haven’t had any problems with it.”

Most students interviewed did not have an opinion on the matter and commended Facilities for its efficient work.

Both the Boston Globe and the Providence Journal recently reported that the city of Providence has run out of salt. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation was down to between 4,000 and 5,000 tons of salt last week — “the bare minimum that it would use in a storm,” the Journal reported — and will not receive another shipment until early March.

Meanwhile, Brown’s salt supply is stable. So far this year, Facilities has used around 260 tons of sand and salt, compared to 150 tons last year. “We’ve used a good amount of salt this year, but we aren’t forecasting any shortage,” Maiorisi said.

Weather forecasts show more snow on Wednesday and Thursday this week. For any treacherous patches of ice to come, Nagayoshi is prepared. “I’m a senior,” he said. “I’ve mastered the slip dance.”

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