Fantastic Five Fight NEPA Weather

Connor Swagler, Reporter

Enjoy weather-related days off? Don’t work on the grounds crew.

The grounds crew consists of five full time employees, and they are responsible for all snow and ice removal, which means they work when many people on campus do not have to.

Students say they are surprised that such a small crew can take care of weather nuisances so quickly.

“I didn’t know that there are only five full-time people, and that actually really surprises me, especially considering how much snow we tend to get most winters here in NEPA,” said Tara Koskulitz, senior math major.

Laurie Finnegan, Grounds Manager, said a lot of preparation goes into the work crews do on the campus grounds. Snow removal is a coordinated dance, she said.

“We’ll have both brooms going, because we have a lot of sidewalk to take care of. Then I’ll probably have two people on backpack blowers, to clear steps and entryways, because the broom leaves a little mess. Then I will be in a plow truck, and somebody will be in the dump-truck salting,” said Finnegan on the process.

Finnegan said ice is even more difficult to combat because it can damage sidewalks and roads. Ice forms when rain flows into cracks in these structures, and when the temperature drops, water freezes and expands, causing stress on the concrete or asphalt, which can break.

“If we get a thin coat of ice, we have the gator that has a spreader, which is the utility vehicle you guys see around campus, and we put a thin coating of calcium chloride on the walkways, to make it walkable,” said Finnegan.

But thick layers of ice make the work harder because the damaging effects are greater.

“Thicker ice that we’ve dealt with quite a few times this year, we just back track, and back track, and back track. If it’s a week when the students aren’t here, it’s just staff, we use less product. But when the kids are here, it’s ready to go,” she said.

Finnegan stressed that safety is the crew’s main concerns.

“Even if there isn’t classes, we need the walkways to be safe for you guys,” said Finnegan.

One problem for the crew occurs when students don’t move their cars after they receive campus announcements to do so.  Snow removal can’t be efficiently completed when vehicles are in the lots.

“It’s tough when we’re plowing just to make a roadway, and we have six inches backed up, and then people need to shovel when they move their cars at night. I know that’s difficult, that’s hard sometimes, but we do our best,” said Finnegan.

When dealing with such large machines that are required to move large amounts snow, they appreciate all the help they can receive from students.

“It makes it harder, and the two trucks, our main plow truck,s have very little visibility. One is a dump-truck and the other has a spreader on it, so when the cars move it’s super helpful,”  Finnegan said.

Erik Machi,  senior business major, has seen the effort and he understands that it’s difficult for a small staff to complete such a big task.

“It helps me understand how long it may take sometimes, but seeing the equipment they use, I imagine it can be difficult to have many of them being used at once, as well be costly. Now that I know there are only five members, I see that they do a great job for the little help that is given to them,” said Machi.