Snow Job

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

With this week's relatively balmy temperatures, it is easy to forget that just a week and a half ago, the area endured one of the worst blizzards of the century. That storm brought total snowfall to over 60 inches in a winter that has tested the efforts of Buildings and Grounds to make Boston College's roads and walkways safe and as snow-free as possible - and University administrators feel they have more than measured up to the challenge.

"The grounds crew is always on top of what's happening with the weather," said Vice President for Human Resources Leo V. Sullivan, who has the responsibility of closing or delaying the opening of the University in the event of inclement weather. "We intend to be open for our students whenever we can and we know the grounds crew is dedicated to do whatever it takes so we can meet this objective."

As Sullivan and B&G administrators note, managing snow removal and related tasks for two separate campuses at a university with thousands of people is no easy operation. Careful planning and crisp execution are as necessary as well-oiled machines and strong backs, they say. Despite the prospects for a long winter, Sullivan said, morale is high in the department.

"They get excited about what they're doing and their dedication is a real tribute to them and how they feel about Boston College," he said.

Although the last few storms have hit while the students were on break, Sullivan said the crews are well aware of the academic calendar and when they need to "turn it up a notch" they will work three shifts in a row to ensure that the campus is safe and ready to open for classes by morning.

"The timing of a storm and the amount of snow governs what we do and how we do it," said B&G Director Thomas Devine, who points out there are also other factors. For example, he said, the snow must be removed from Middle Campus, as there is no place to push it, and brought to Newton Campus. Also, the University's snow removal begins at midnight, so it will be less disruptive to adjacent neighborhoods and will not interfere with traffic on surrounding streets at that time.

Sullivan singled out Grounds Maintenance Department Supervisor Robert LeBlanc and Foreman James Slattery for their work.

"Any decisions I make regarding delays or closings are buttressed by information Bob gives me at three or four in the morning," Sullivan said. "While most of us are sleeping, Bob and his crew are in here clearing the parking lots, roads and walkways to prepare the campus for morning."

Devine said the storm that hit on Dec. 20, the last day of final exams, "really put a pinch on us. The grounds crew had to do some pretty extraordinary things, with most being here straight through the night."

The effort and support from B&G housekeeping employees has also been outstanding, said Thomas Hurley, associate director of B&G Auxiliary Services. They not only do much of the shoveling around the houses and buildings, but many also sign up on a volunteer basis to support the grounds crew, expanding their shifts and picking up the slack.

Supplies are also an integral part of the University's attempts to handle winter weather. As of last week B&G had spread 43,750 pounds of salt, 38,350 pounds of a non-salt snow removal mixture and 120 yards of salted sand, according to Hurley. As significant as they are, these figures are dwarfed by the record winter of 1993-94, when the University used 139,500 pounds of salt, 62,500 pounds of non-salt mixture and 555 yards of salted sand to handle 92 inches of snow.

Though winter's onslaught has relented, at least temporarily, Hurley said this winter has been particularly "front-end loaded" with a lot more snow "early and often," making it one of the most severe he's seen in 23 years at BC.

No matter how hard the crews work to combat the snow, administrators say, it inevitably piles up, narrowing roadways and eliminating parking spaces. As a result, Parking and Identification Services Supervisor Dennis Sullivan urges people to utilize the Beacon Street garage when the Commonwealth Avenue garage becomes full and avoid parking in roadways, building entrances or pedestrian walkways.

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