UMass goes over snow removal budget

By Micah Levine

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify a typo within the first paragraph. 2/9/11 at 5:38 p.m.

The University of Massachusetts campus has had a number of delayed openings and early closings as well as a few all-day closings due to snowy weather, and the recent storms have already drained the school’s projected snow removal budget.

In a recent news release from the University, UMass Climatologist Michael Rawlins said this January has had the second highest accumulation of snow for the month, totaling around 39.9 inches, the highest snow total since 1893. A total of 16 snow-related events have occurred as of February 6.

He added in the release that, when asked about climate change in relation to the record snow, it can’t be sourced directly to a warming atmosphere.

“New England has seen an increase in winter precipitation in recent decades, and heavy snowfalls have also increased in the East,” said Rawlins. “Looking forward, there may be more of the same, as climate model projections suggest wetter winters, and perhaps more heavy snowfalls in coming decades,” he continued.

The snow has turned many of the UMass pathways into slush and ice obstacle courses, making the trip to and from classes an exercise in caution.

Sophomore Shaylyn Conroy said the conditions of some of the walkways are dangerous, “Walking to class in the snow is a challenge. The walkways are slippery, and it’s hard to tell where the icy patches are underneath the snow,” she said.

Like most of the surrounding communities, UMass has melted through its snow removal personnel budget of $250,000. As of Sunday, UMass has spent a total of $261,546 on snow removal personnel. To pay for the difference, UMass will limit spending in other areas as required, said Campus Spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.

In addition to the personnel budget, UMass has a snow removal budget of $200,000 to use toward equipment repairs and salt, and a melting agent called Ice B’ Gone.

UMass has a total snow removal staff of around 250 people, including 160 custodial staff members, and 90 grounds people who are in charge of operating equipment like plows and snow blowers. Snow removal entails both removing snow from walkways and streets as well as trucking the snow off to other places, to make room for more snow.

People working at the physical plant monitor weather patterns and also provide internet updates and television reports, then evaluate information like the path and nature of a storm as well as the length and accumulation that may occur. Then a recommendation is made to the Vice Chancellor of Administrative Finance, Joyce Hatch, about whether or not to close campus. A decision about campus closing is usually made by 4 a.m.

“The physical plant has been doing a fantastic job,” said Blaguszewski “They’ve had to deal with back to back storms, and they are doing great work.”

Micah Levine can be reached at [email protected]