When Laf freezes over: Plant Ops tackles tough weather

When+Laf+freezes+over%3A+Plant+Ops+tackles+tough+weather

Michael Kowaleski

Photos by Hana Isihara ‘17 and Danielle Moore ‘17, Graphic by Reine Pavlik ‘15

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When brutal weather hits Lafayette, Plant Operations steps to the plate.

This week their hands were full, as the college shut down on Monday and Wednesday due to severe inclement weather. Only essential employees, such as administrators, reported at their regular time, and the decision to hold classes was left to professors both days.

The Plant Ops employees start their day at 5 a.m. on days like those to assess the conditions and begin protocol for clearing the school grounds. From there, employees are tasked with clearing walkways well enough to enable safe and easy travel between buildings.

“[Every employee is] assigned an area,” either the buildings around Markle, Farinon, and Marquis, Plant Ops employee Brian Kline explained. “About three on each area. A guy on a truck, a guy on a [snowplow], and a shoveler.”

The area is plowed first, then the steps are shoveled. Once everything is cleared, the pathway is salted.

Kline said Wednesday, which had a sleet/ice mixture cover the ground throughout the day, was the hardest to cover.

“It’s easier to let it go, but it has to be open so students can walk,” Kline said. “But in a situation like that, it’s easier for the ice to accumulate on top so that it’s snow on the bottom. But when you plow constantly, the ice is coming down and sticking, so that’s why there’s so much of it.”

Their work has received mixed reactions from the Lafayette community, as detractors cited slippery sidewalks as reasons for criticism.

When asked to describe how Plant Ops have done, Devon Leach ‘17 said, “Horribly. I went to boarding school and never had to worry about slipping. It’s like they’ve never heard of salt.”

“When I’m walking to my eight [a.m.] class, it’s hard to walk,” Zili Wang ‘15 said. “It’s a little too slippery.”

“I have been slipping a lot,” Leslie Tintel ’16 said. “Granted, I’m not the most graceful person, but still.”

Others are more sympathetic to the constant pressure that is put on Plant Ops employees.

“They’re doing alright considering the circumstances,” Ryan O’Sullivan ‘14 said. “They’ve got a layer of ice to deal with, a lot of ground to cover, and it’s not like they increase their staff for the winter.”

President Alison Byerly is pleased with Plant Ops’s performance.

“I think Plant Ops has done a really remarkable job in dealing very promptly and efficiently with a wide range of weather conditions,” she said. “Not only snow, but ice, to have rapidly changing conditions…they give very careful thought to the safety of students, to the safety of folks travelling to and from campus.”

“I think they’ve prepared really well, I’ve been very impressed.”

Director of Physical Operations Bruce Ferretti did not respond for comment.

 

Matt Mitterhoff ‘16 contributed reporting to this article.