Living in West Michigan means trips to Grand Rapids, days at the beach and, in the winter, lots and lots of snow. Ken Stanton, landscape operation supervisor, and the entire Grand Valley State University facilities services team are some of the most knowledgeable people on campus about the challenges that the winter season brings.
Though this school year has seen an extended “fall” season, snow removal efforts are now needed to combat dangerous driving conditions on campus. Usually, the facilities department is completely ready for the winter season by Nov. 1 although preparations are made for the change of an early winter.
“It’s a step-by-step process,” Stanton said. “We have things that we do each month to prepare for snow as well as for the other challenges that different seasons bring from snow removal to landscaping.”
Though Stanton now serves as the landscape supervisor, he was the grounds operation supervisor for many years, a position now filled by Ed Simon.
In order to ensure that student safety is a priority, the facilities team weighs in on university operation decisions such as snow days and school delays. Part of this process includes constantly checking weather forecasts to prepare for upcoming storms.
“When we are deciding whether or not to cancel school we think about if we will be able to keep up with the snow fall,” Stanton said. “Sometimes this means calling in extra help to clean up campus and make it safe.”
The priority after large snow falls is to be ready for classes by 8 a.m. Stanton said.
When the facilities department sees an upcoming storm, they check the forecast 6 to 8 times a day to monitor the storm and see what resources they need to have available. Currently, there are about 20 pieces of grounds equipment and rented equipment used to plow snow. Additionally, there are 17 full-time staff members responsible for running snow removal equipment.The GVSU crew team also helps remove snow around academic buildings and building entrances seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
One of the biggest challenges of the winter weather is not the snow removal process, but the storing all of the materials necessary to reduce snow on campus including over 300 tons of road salt, 60 tons of bag salt and 100,000 gallons of de-icing liquids for sidewalks. This process of storing these materials means months of planning and negotiating with contractors and equipment dealers.
“If you can see students riding bikes on a dry sidewalk in January, that’s impressive,” Stanton said. “We have an intensive snow removal process and a huge commitment by the university to keeping things open for GVSU community members.”