NMU grounds crew works to remove snow

kate.annala

The National Weather Service reported that since July 1, 2008, Marquette has experienced 156.1 inches of snow. That’s a little over 12 feet, which would block the entrances to buildings and prohibit cars from entering campus. Amid the piles of snow, large tire tracks are easily unnoticed on the sidewalks, roads and parking lots. These tracks are evidence of work that has been done by the Planning/Grounds Department.

By the time students and faculty arrive on campus, the employees with the Planning/Grounds Department have already put in three to four full hours of work. Jim Thams, associate director of Engineering and Planning/Grounds, said the snow removal process starts as early as 5 a.m. and on heavy snowfall days, at 4 a.m. Certain areas of campus, such as the main parking lots, have priority over others.

“The goal is to get as much space opened up by 8 (a.m.),” said Thams. “The guys try to get as much done as they can before everyone gets here.”

Snow removal is no small task. With only seven people on duty, the snow removal process can take all day. Snowfall from 1 to 4 inches takes eight hours to clear, and 4 to 8 inches takes 12 hours, according to Thams. On Monday, Jan. 8, Marquette received 6 inches of snow. It took 10 hours to clear the snow, putting 150 miles on one of the truck’s odometer that day.

When there is no snowfall, the crew is busy pushing snow banks back during the day to make room for the rest of the snow that will come in February and March.

Efficiency is always on the crew’s minds. The budget for snow removal comes from NMU’s general fund. This budget allocates only so much money for staff, equipment repairs and materials, such as salt and sand. However, Thams said the department is frugal and conscious of the time and resources put into removing snow on campus.

“If there isn’t an event at the Berry Events Center that day, there’s no reason to put resources over there,” Thams said.

Thams suggested that students, faculty and staff can help the snow removal process by being conscious of parking. Parking on campus is difficult in the winter, but paying attention to where one leaves a car can help.