Facilities Services stands at the ready for snow removal

The Facilities Services Department clears snow during Wednesday's storm.

Another snowy February morning at Marquette brings familiar circumstances. Sleep-interrupting plows echo through the early morning air as students slip into salt-stained jeans, grab their coffee mugs and head to class.

As monotonous as dealing with the elements can be, there are coordinated snow removal efforts to make winter in Milwaukee easier for the campus community.

Marquette’s Department of Facilities Services, which is responsible for campus snow removal, is on-call nearly 24/7 – but always ready when snow hits the ground.

The grounds and trucking branches of Facilities Services employ 15 full-time workers. But large snowfalls like that of Feb. 9 require additional workers from the trucking staff to complete the difficult task, said Ronald Ripley, director of facilities services.

“It’s cold, it’s dark and you’re out there alone,” he said. “You work 12 hours, come back shortly and have to put in another long shift.”

Staff members use plow-equipped trucks, skid steer loaders, snow blowers and lawn tractors converted for winter months to remove snow. Walking pathways, parking lots and building emergency exits are among the first areas cleared, he said.

Ripley said grounds branch workers try to anticipate snowstorms and work pre-emptively.

“As snow starts to fall, activities to clear it begin immediately,” he said. “We don’t stop until the snow has stopped.”

While standard road salt is applied to the majority of campus sidewalks, more expensive salt-hybrids are used in parking lots and Road Runner Ice Melt is spread near entry doors to major buildings to prevent corrosion, Ripley said.

As Facilities Services staff plow, shovel and salt, the university’s LIMO operations work in overdrive.

Dan Kolosovsky, manager of Student Safety Programs, said LIMO requests increase with inclement weather. More than 3,000 individuals may use a LIMO on a snowy Saturday night.

During these months, vehicle maintenance is particularly important, Kolosovsky said.

“We’re very proactive about maintenance as well as everything else in our program,” he said.

While clear sidewalks and transportation are great, the words “snow day,” are what many students really want to hear. The decision to cancel classes is made by several individuals, including Art Scheuber, vice president for administration.

“The determination is based on a number of factors,” he said in an e-mail. “Is Facilities Services keeping up with the snowfall in their removal efforts? Is it snow or ice? What are the street conditions?”

Scheuber said the balance between snow and ice accumulation is especially important. This explains why afternoon classes were canceled on Dec. 9, but no “snow day” was given for the 10-inch blizzard on Feb. 9.

“The 10 inches (in February) came over a 36-hour period,” he said. “In December there was an ice advisory and there was concern that faculty would not make it in or that someone would get hurt.”

He added that canceling classes forces teachers to squeeze in lessons later and affects important university events.