Keeping up with the cold: campus slips, slides, survives

IMG_1728 Winter in Vermont can be temperamental. Last year there was little snow, this year was warmer than average with two feet of snow falling over a few days. It becomes a routine: Freeze, thaw, freeze, repeat. This also can mean some slick spots around campus.

   “Sidewalks were never really maintained before eight in the morning,” said Carly Kondel, ’17, a resident of the 300s townhouses. “I fell a couple of times on my way to my Thursday morning class one day, spilling my coffee all over myself.”

   The $1.5 million deficit this year caused some cuts from the maintenance budget. That means the maintenance department is working with a shrinking staff due to retirements and a few staff taking the buyout.

   “When we get a big melt and then it gets really cold the next day it’s just really hard to keep up with,” said Jim Farrington, the associate director of facilities. “We are down a couple of people in the grounds department due to some attrition, but we believe that with less maintenance up north and some better equipment and looking for efficencies that we do not have any lack in ability to serve to the level that is expected.”

   With about 70 facilities workers, about half do groundskeeping work, oftentimes working shifts around the clock to properly take care of the walkways and roads around campus, according to Farrington. The schedules often have workers coming in at different times, trying to keep up with demand.

   “The fact of the matter is that we are in northern Vermont. We get rain, we get snow, we get melt, thaw, melt, thaw. We are never going to get to the point where we are going to get dry sidewalks,” said Mike New, director for human resources. “I think the teams do a good job in putting salt down, and if we are not getting it where we need to I think we need people to let us know certain spots to look out for.”

    A few years ago a student brought to attention the fact that in front of the gym was particularly slippery. Now Farrington and New say that is one of the places they make sure to treat after snowfall, even putting up signs by that gym entrance.