In his 15
years in facilities management at Smith, Robert
Dombkowski has never experienced a winter quite like this
There have been winters with
as much—or even more—snow,
but never a season with the storms hitting in such rapid
succession, with as much intensity, during a single window
of time, said Dombkowski, the supervisor of grounds.
“December 27 was the first snowfall,
and once it started it didn’t stop,” agreed
Diane Benoit, building services director.
This winter, snow
removal machinery has been ubiquitous on campus.
Benoit work together on the college’s snow removal operation.
It is a Herculean task—particularly
in a season like this one—that involves more than two dozen
four plow trucks, two tractors, two motorized sidewalk plows,
Holder,” a snow removal machine manufactured by a Canadian
company that can blow snow 50 feet.
And that’s just at the
ground level. On top of the campus buildings, other facilities
management personnel from the roofing and carpentry divisions
clear the accumulating mass off the flat roofs and the ice
dams from gutters, said Benoit. Throughout it all, public
safety officers make sure that the parking spaces are cleared
The work begins even before
the first snowflake falls.
The day before a storm, crews
spread an ice-melting substance on the roads, said Dombkowski,
who monitors the weather forecasts to determine when staff
members should be asked to report to work.
Shifts can begin
as early as 4 a.m. and stretch through the day. In 13 hours,
staff can clear 6 inches of snow from the entire campus.
It requires up to 20 hours to remove a foot of the white
“It’s a science,” Dombkowski said. “With one storm after
another, I have to make sure that everyone is getting enough
One of two sidewalk
plows keeps the campus pathways clear.
The grounds division is responsible
for clearing fire hydrants, sidewalks, roadways, parking
lots and the new artificial turf field. Building services
staff clear the stairways, entrances and fire escapes that
provide access to buildings. The goal is to be able to open
campus by 8 a.m. the day of a storm.
“It is a collective and collaborative
effort,” says Benoit. “And
a sense of humor goes a long way.”
This year’s running joke
is about the chances of snow still heaped on campus grounds
when commencement arrives in May, said Benoit. (Even if that
occurred, the snow would not remain in the busiest parts
of campus, she assures.)
After they plow, staff set about
relocating snow mounds that clog byways to a remote part
of campus. Following one storm, recalls Dombkowski,
drivers hauled more than 200 truckloads, each with 17 cubic
yards of snow, throughout a 10-hour period. What does 3,400
cubic yards of snow look like when it is dumped? “It’s a
small ski area,” he
Coincidentally, a staff member
in the grounds division retired January 2, missing much of
this winter’s activity. To be sure, the division has
missed him this season; and with all the extra work, Dombkowski
has not had a chance to hire a replacement.
When he retires, he does not
plan to relocate to a warmer locale, says Dombkowski. But
he does plan to leisurely watch the snow fall.
And, he adds,
he will plow his own driveway at his own pace.