REBECCA BAINER — General Assignment Reporter
If the recent autumn nor’easter is any indication of the weather on its way this winter, Southern may be spending quite a bit of money, but Bob Sheeley, associate vice president for capital budgeting and facilities, said he is hopeful that this win- ter is not like last year.
Sheeley said about $85,000 a year is allocated in the university’s operating budget for grounds work, which includes snow removal.
“Our grounds crew is our primary crew responsible for snow removal. They work year round, during the winter time snow removal is their primary job,” said Sheeley. “The snow budget covers the removal of snow from parking lots and sidewalks, salt, sand, whatever we use on walkways.”
Sheeley said there are certain times during the year when more money is spent from the budget, so it has to be spent intelligently.
“What we try to do is watch very carefully our expenditures,” said Sheeley. “We used to do it before we had difficult economic times, we always watched our
expenditures because the grounds budget is a seasonal thing.”
Sheeley said last year was an unusu- ally bad winter and he has heard mixed reports about whether to expect that kind of weather again this winter–and there- fore that kind of spending.
“Last year was a very unusual year with very unusual expenditures, compounded by the fact that we had to remove snow from the top of buildings. That was very expensive but necessary,” said Sheeley.
“Comparing it to last year’s cost would not be appropriate because I think that was an unusual year.”
James Blake, executive vice president for finance and administration, said this year’s budget is certainly tighter than last year for a number of reasons, but the bud- get works like a personal bank account; if more money is spent in one area, it will be cut back in another.
“If they go over budget,” said Blake, “it might mean that the parking lots don’t get swept after the winter quite as soon as we like. It could mean the gardens
and the lawns don’t go through their normal spring cleaning.”
One of the things the budget covers is the mainte- nance of equipment, which Sheeley said fluctuates in cost depending upon how bad and rough storms are, and although there is backup for some equip- ment, it’s not cost effective to have backup for every piece of equipment. Sheeley said the equipment used by the univer- sity includes plows, back hoes and snow blowers.
“There’s all different vari- ables that impact cost,” said Sheeley. “If you have snow that’s heavy and wet it’s tough to push. You also have more damage to your equipment in those situations.”
Blake said last year equip- ment was used about five times more than it normally is, so he is keeping his fingers crossed that the extreme weather will not continue into this winter.
“The weather has been more extreme the last couple of years,” said Blake. “It doesn’t snow, it snows, it doesn’t just get hot, it gets real hot.”
In addition to having a grounds crew work to clean up the campus after a snow storm, Sheeley said an outside
contractor is hired and that also contributes to cost.
“Usually we have one or two, tough, bad storms with a lot of snow and we need help, so I bring outside contractors in,” said Sheeley. “I can call and say, ‘Hey we’re having a big storm this weekend I need two guys with two trucks.’”
Sheeley said he bids the contract to different contrac- tors, and this year a new com- pany is taking over and will be helping for the next three years.
In addition to being in charge of campus clean up, Sheeley said he also makes a recommendation to campus officials as to whether or not to open after a storm. Sheeley said his recommendation is not only based on how far along the campus is with clean up, but also the surrounding areas.
“We have people coming in. It’s not only is the university clean and read to open, [but] can people get here?” said Sheeley. “Are we saying to people, if we open, come on in and endangering them?”
Sheeley said during a storm he is up all night monitoring the snow, making a decision when to call clean up crews in, and driving to surrounding areas to check on the conditions.
“I’ll go out Dixwell [Ave- nue] and see how bad it is there,” said Sheeley, “I’ll go out Whalley [Avenue] and see how bad it is there.”
Dorice Dorvilier, a junior sociology major said she feels sometimes the university doesn’t cancel school early enough during a storm.
“We’re like OK, well we have school still so we still have to plan for all this. We still have to plan to go out in the snow,” said Dorvilier. “Then, when they finally do cancel school it’s kind of inconvenient, people are already getting ready out in the blizzard cleaning cars off.”
Dorvilier said she also feels something else should be done with the snow piles in parking lots.
“I feel like they need to find a different place where to put the snow,” said Dorvilier, “It seems like they take up parking spaces and we already have a lot of [trouble] with parking.”
Sheeley said the process of snow removal is complicated, and last year he practically lived on campus during the winter.
“It was like every third day there was a storm,” said Shee- ley. “It’s a lot involved, it’s a lot more than people think, but it is what it is.”