I get snow respect at all

By AMANDA GHANNAM, Staff Writer

The University of Michigan-Dearborn’s facilities management has had to resort to budget rearrangements in order to manage the excessive amount of snow this winter, the grounds manager told the Michigan Journal on Friday.

This winter, there have been 54 snow events that have required removal operations, as opposed to only 30 last year. Snowfall on main campus has so far been measured at a total of 86.5 inches – nearly doubled from last year’s 46. So how does the University deal with snow removal and management on campus?

“Anytime there’s a hazardous situation on roads or sidewalks, public safety monitors the situation 24/7 and we’re on call 24/7,” said Keith Sudak, grounds manager. A combination of techniques including plowing, sweeping, and salting are used. But with almost twice as much snow as in past years, facilities management is becoming more and more strapped for cash.

“It has been difficult,” Sudak said. “The salt expenditure has probably tripled. We’ve got good prices through a contract with the Ann Arbor campus, but we did have to buy three times as much.” Facilities management has used 670 tons of salt so far—last year, only 200 tons were required. This drastic increase, and other extra snow removal work, have strained facilities management’s budget.

“Other budgeting issues would be staff and labor; staff has had to work overtime, and there were breakdowns because the equipment has been used so much,” Sudak continued. Where do the extra funds come from? Facilities management isn’t able to request extra funds or a budget increase—they work on a fixed budget.

“We just have to decrease expenditures in other areas. We have ‘x’ amount of dollars to work with, and we have to pick and choose where we spend, so it is a burden,” Sudak said.

“In my opinion, there are an awful lot of concrete issues, like broken curbs, that are marked for repair but they’re not really safety hazards. So this year we’re changing gears and focusing on safety first—cosmetic issues being put on the back burner as we balance our budget.”

A team of only nine people, including two student workers, handles snow removal for all of the main campus on Evergreen road, while the Fairlane North part of campus has its own contract and operates independently. The seven staff members, including Sudak, do all the shoveling, plowing, and salting, day or night—whatever the weather situation requires. It’s most important to keep the roads clear during class times, so anytime from 6:30 in the morning to 9:00 at night is “a constant battle to keep things safe,” Sudak said. “Daytime storms are the worst; you use up a lot of salt.”

Sudak said that in 2013, the last snow of the year fell on March 25; “we still have a ways to go,” he said. But despite budget worries, facilities management will continue to work to handle the snow burden. “Aesthetic things, we can probably cut down on. If it’s a safety issue or hazard it’s our first priority, always.”