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Physical Plant Personnel Work Hard to Manage Snow

Published Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Snow drift in from of an SMSU monument sign
Snow drift in from of an SMSU monument sign

We’ve all heard of the adage, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

Around the campus of Southwest Minnesota University in recent weeks, that phrase has morphed into “It’s not the snow … it’s the volume of snow.”

“Where do you put it?” asks Cyndi Holm, Director of Facilities and Physical Plant, when talking about the recent snows that have caused class cancellations, late starts and campus closings.

Physical Plant personnel have been working — at times around the clock — to keep ahead of the snow.

“I think several years ago we had as much snow, but it’s been a long time,” said Holm. “We’re hoping for a few days of 35 degree temperatures, to help melt down the piles. We’re going to have to start moving the piles at some point. We’ll haul the snow to the north side of campus. But right now, we’re just trying to keep things open.”

Holm said that “Right now, our staff is working continuously around the clock. They start at 4 or 5 in the morning. People don't know that,” she said.

SMSU was built with accessibility in mind when it opened its doors in 1967 and Holm said that fact is not lost on Physical Plant employees. “Our crews do the walkways, residential life entrances, near buildings and sidewalks.” That effort enables students in wheelchairs to navigate around campus more easily during snow events.

Holm said contractors begin snow removal at “3 or 4 in the morning.” They clean the parking lots, and the SMSU crews take it from there.

And while SMSU crews do all they can to keep sidewalks open for students, that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. City street crews, for instance, may come along and fill in the sidewalk outlets, which necessitates another trip for Physical Plant personnel to clean those out again.

“I tell the student to ‘buddy up,’” she said. “When there’s a lot of snow, it’s a smart thing to do, especially for our student in wheelchairs.”

Snow in residence hall parking lots can become an issue, she said. “We encourage the students to get in their cars and move them to a space that’s been cleared. That will allow us to go in with a skid loader and clean those spots. That will help immensely,” she said.

Due to liability issues, Physical Plant personnel aren’t allowed to tow cars or to jump batteries, she said.

Communication with students is a key, she said. “We’ve had a lot of snow, and working cooperatively with the students goes a long ways to help our staff as they deal with the volume of snow.”

Marshall has had more than 16 inches of snow in the month of February alone, and Holm said she’s proud of the efforts of Physical Plant employees who work so hard to keep the campus open and accessible during these tough winter months.

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