Facilities Fighting Off Jack Frost

Courtney Garloff, Staff Writer

With lots already full, some students are worried about how snow and other winter weather will affect the availability of parking.

First year student Kassie Williams, who keeps her car on campus because of her weekend job, said parking is often a concern. “I’m worried about losing a parking spot. What happens if I have to move my car and I come back and there’s snow in it?”  Williams is also worried about her car getting snowed into a spot. “What if I need to drive somewhere and my car is stuck because snow is piled around it?”

The university has a plan to keep students safe and parking spots open, said Robert Zavada, Associate Director of Campus Safety, and he starts by keeping a close eye on mother nature’s plans.

“Our role is to monitor exactly what is going on with the weather,” said Zavada. “We don’t want to displace anybody if we don’t have to.” He said he and his team work to keep students informed and how to manage parking-related issues.  He said his strategies vary, just like the weather.

“If we get to the point that we have to act, our role becomes to notify not only the students but the whole campus community about where to relocate,” said Zavada.

Campus Safety posts announcements on E-Mu and send emails during severe weather. Announcements will include parking areas that must be cleared, the time students must move their cars and also what parking lots are available and open. Lot A or the North Gate Lot, next to MacDowell Hall, has become the go-to location over the past few years.

Campus Safety will even sometimes try to contact the owners of  vehicles remaining in lots to inform them about the move. In extreme cases, they will arrange for cars to be towed. “We will tow if it is for the benefit of the vehicle owner,” said Zavada.

Campus Safety will only tow if officials feel that it is the best option for the safety of the car. Owners of towed cars risk a $100 fine and towing costs.  Zavada said he doesn’t want cars to be damaged by events such as plowing or falling tree limbs.

Campus Safety said the best time to move cars from lots is often after the North Gate lot has been plowed.

The second part of Misericordia’s plan of action begins when Paul Murphy, Director of Facilities and Safety and his team get to work. The University has stocked about 30 tons of salt and other supplies since the fall semester in case a Thanksgiving snowstorm rolled in unexpectedly.

“When ensure that we have adequate supply of rock salt for the roads, and we also make sure that we have an adequate supply of deicer for the sidewalk,” said Murphy.

Workers also prepare the snow removal equipment, everything from brooms to snowplows, which workers use to clear sidewalks and parking lots throughout campus. “We have a fleet of vehicles to clear the sidewalks, and we also plow all the roads,” said Murphy.

When snow is expected, the grounds crew starts prepping the plowing vehicles the day ahead of the storm. Crews are usually summoned to work at 4 a.m. following a storm, and they begin to plow and treat roads and sidewalks to make it easier for the morning commute. “We really just try to keep up,” said Murphy.

Murphy said a winter snowstorm that delivered around 6 to 8 inches of snow last year forced the closure of about a dozen parking spots because they were fill of plowed snow. Murphy said he tries to avoid losing spots to snow, but that is dependent on the amount of snow fall. “We may shove it in this area and lose a couple of parking spots but keep the campus open.”

“If it’s just a couple inches then we try to push it off to the side,” said Murphy. “Our main concern is to keep the walkways and roadways open.”

Crews use a front-end loader to move the white stuff, and it takes time because they can only  move one load at a time. Depending on the severity of the storm, it may take  a couple days to remove all of the snow from parking spots.

After severe storms when snow totals reach 6 to 10 inches, the university calls an outside contractor with larger machinery to help move the snow at a faster pace.

Recent campus construction has complicated snow removal efforts, said Murphy. New sidewalks leading to Anderson and MacDowell Hall have obstructed previous plowing routes.

“We would plow the snow into the grass, then it would just melt,” said Murphy. “In the past we used to just plow everything into the grass, but now we can’t do that.”

Now snow must be dumped at end of the sidewalks where it might take up student parking.

Zavada and Murphy  encourage students to follow directions that release in campus announcements so students can keep vehicles safe and find a parking open spots on campus.

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