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OSU deals with $now problem

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While Ohio State students cautiously inch their way to campus on snowy and icy streets and parking lots, the costs of clearing that accumulation are inching upward.

The snow removal process, which requires contributions of more than 100 staff members, takes place mainly overnight, said Nicole Hernandez, OSU Transportation and Parking spokeswoman.

The staff used to clear the roadways and parking lots include groundskeepers, custodians, mechanics and equipment operators.

“Winter weather has been something we have had to manage on this campus for a long time,” said Peter Calamari, interim director for Facilities and Operations Development. “It gives you the opportunity to improve every year and learn from past mistakes.”

FOD and Transportation and Parking have combined to use more than 1,000 tons of salt from their 2,000-ton supply.

One thousand tons, or 2 million pounds, weighs more than four times the Statue of Liberty, according to Infoplease.com.

On days in which possible class-canceling snow is imminent, OSU road crews will start clearing and treating the roads at 3 a.m., Calamari said.

The Lantern reported Feb. 2 that Sarah Blouch, director of OSU Transportation and Parking services, said the hiring of contractors was “not going to be cheap.”

Having up to 20 staff members working overtime and using extra materials can cost between $3,000 to $5,000 per morning.

FOD was unavailable to comment on the frequency that overtime employees and materials are used.

Numbers that estimate all OSU snow-related closure costs are not tabulated, said Bob Armstrong, director of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention.

OSU’s Risk Management office collected some snow-closure information four or five years ago, Armstrong said. The office is defunct and its findings unknown.

Some students said OSU’s effort has its hiccups.

“They need to plow the parking lots better,” said Aaron Kerr, a fourth-year in zoology. “It’s taken me 30 minutes to find a parking spot by the ROTC building before.”

Any issues with the snow removal process are not because of a lack of preparation or equipment.

OSU Transportation and Parking uses 33 plows, three salt spreaders and eight contractors in their efforts to remove snow from parking lots, Hernandez said.

“There is often an expectation that campus parking should be as clear as the parking lots at major retail centers,” Blouch said. “Rarely can we provide that level of service.”

Even though OSU cannot offer a flawless level of service, clearing parking lots is a costly endeavor. Transportation and Parking has spent almost $50,000 in 2011 on outside contract labor to assist with salting university parking lots, Blouch said.

There are more than 100 individual parking lots and 15 garages on campus, she said. The entire process of clearing the parking lots takes roughly 24 hours after the snow stops.

“Once the snow is packed down, it’s very hard to move,” Blouch said. “Snow and ice remains (in parking lots) long after it’s melted elsewhere on campus and in town.”

FOD uses two to four large road plows and up to 12 small plows attached to small tractor vehicles, Calamari said.

Blouch recalled a scene several years ago when 22 inches of snow fell on campus. She and other management staff grabbed snow shovels and headed out to clear parking garage stairwells.

Every other staff member was already out in the storm.

“Fortunately I do not have to personally shovel snow all the time,” Blouch said. “I like to think that we can react quickly because our staff are all encouraged to step outside their daily roles.”

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