Mike Bellmore, Staff Writer-
On the evening of Jan. 12, Robert Sheeley, the associate vice president for Capitol Budgeting and Facilities Operations at SCSU, stayed up all night watching the Weather Channel, listening to the radio, peering out the window, and calling the campus police.
“If there’s a storm predicted, I’m up the entire night,” Sheeley said. “I don’t go to sleep.”
When it snows, Sheeley said he is the man who advises Interim President Stanley Battle whether or not Southern delays or cancels school.
According to Sheeley, the New Haven area received over 50 inches of snow between Dec. 28 and now. The snowfall on Jan. 12, for example, measured nearly 19 inches, though Sheeley said the amount that fell on the Southern campus was closer to 27 inches.
At 5:30 that morning, when Sheeley decided to give the day off to students and faculty, he said his day, and the day of the men and women who work with him at Facilities Operations, was just beginning.
“It’s pretty hairy coming in in the middle of a snowstorm,” Sheeley said. “Usually nothing’s been plowed. The streets haven’t been touched yet.”
But that doesn’t stop Southern’s supervisor to grounds Bob Barletta or his crew, who come out in the middle of the storm to clear the school.
“You finally get into a nice sleep, and before you know it, the phone does ring and it’s your supervisor telling you, ‘Bob, its time to come in,’” Barletta said. “It’s tough.”
Sheeley said with only a grounds crew of eight and a shoveling crew of four or five, it is up to Facilities to make ready the Southern campus, which is essentially a small city. What needs to be cleared, according to Sheeley: 173 acres of land, more than 40 buildings, more than 4,000 parking spaces, more than three miles of walkways, the inner roadways that wind throughout the residence halls and administration buildings, and the roofs of two garages.
“These guys are pretty remarkable, coming in and risking–leaving their families in the middle of a storm to come in to make the campus safe,” Sheeley said. “They deserve a little credit for that, because it’s not easy.”
Sheeley said that the first priority when clearing the campus is ensuring its safety. Facilities crews begin by removing snow from every door of every building, as blocked exits are fire hazards. Walkways and parking lots are important, he said, but buildings come first.
Sheeley said the biggest challenge this winter has posed to Facilities Operations is snow removal.
“We ran out of places to put the snow,” he said. “We had to engage the services of outside contractors to help us.”
A crew of 10 shovelers was hired, and the service of heavy equipment was required, Sheeley said.
“This year to date–and we still have four to five weeks, if not six to go–we have spent $87,440. And that does not include the cost that we have incurred to remove snow from roofs.”
The costs associated with last year’s winter, he said, added up to only $43,568. The cost of removing snow from Southern’s roofs will likely amount to at least $100,000.
“This really hurts us to have to spend this kind of money,” Sheeley said, “but once again, how do you put a price on safety?”
Richard Cogswell, administrative coordinator for custodial and grounds, said during the month of January, his crews routinely worked 12-hour days to get the campus ready for students. It was hard work, he said.
“Recognition–that’s something that goes a long way, when you recognize the small group of guys for doing a big job,” Cogswell said. “Recognize us for what we accomplished.”