Buffalo State College

Renowned for its harsh winters, Buffalo, N.Y., provides this college with a significant challenge each winter. Continually employing new techniques, the college readily takes on nature’s worst.

Buffalo State College is a city within a city. The population of the college consists of more than 10,000 students—of which 2,000 are residents—as well as more than 1,200 employees and 500 elementary students. In addition, the campus’ art museum, performing arts center, ice rink and small business center, among other facilities, attract numerous daily visitors.

Situated on 115 acres in the City of Buffalo, N.Y., Buffalo State is the only urban liberal-arts college in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Additionally, it is the largest university college in the SUNY system.

The college began in 1871 as the Buffalo Normal School with 86 students and one building. Today, the college enrolls more than 10,000 students and occupies 40+ buildings on a main campus and two smaller sites. The main campus area includes 115 acres consisting of 2.7 million square feet of building space, 3 miles of roads, 20 parking lots (for more than 2,000 vehicles), four major quad areas (one of cement and paver blocks) and endless feet of sidewalks.

To operate and maintain the campus, the college’s Department of Campus Services and Facilities employs more than 140 individuals serving as mechanical tradesmen, custodians, administrative and clerical staff, and roads and grounds crews. We hire an additional 35 students as seasonal staff in the spring and summer. And, in a special program, 30 local high-school horticulture students offer a hand to our staff.

The roads and grounds staff of 13 includes three supervisors: Bill Smock, maintenance supervisor; Joe Territo, grounds supervisor; and Ken Kloss, vehicle-maintenance supervisor. In addition to mowing the grass and plowing the roads and walkways, this crew plants flowers and trees, collects trash and recyclables, mends and installs fences, maintains athletic fields, patches roads and walkways, polices the grounds, digs up the occasional water-line break and handles similar events when they occur. Faculty, staff and students consistently offer plaudits to the crew for the campus’ appearance and its landscaping improvements.

The infamous snows of Buffalo...

While the horror stories of Buffalo winters are greatly exaggerated—the average snowfall is 93.2 inches—the need to be ready and able to meet the need for snow and ice control does exist. Occasionally, continuous snow fall or ice buildup forces us to augment the crew’s size. When this happens, we call volunteers from a list of college-staff mechanics, custodians and laborers who demonstrate an ability to handle the challenging snow-removal task. If the call is after-hours, we pay these workers overtime. If it occurs during regular work-day hours, college administration has instructed these crews to make the snow-removal job their highest priority over routine work orders. As a result, Buffalo State College virtually never shuts down for “snow days.”

We initiate the snow- and ice-removal process whenever the snow or ice becomes a safety concern. We don’t rely on action thresholds such as the development of a 2-inch depth but respond as the need dictates. Our first priority is the main roads. We want to be sure emergency vehicles have easy access in the event they need to get on campus. Then, depending on the time of day (or night), we move to parking lots, sidewalks and disabled-access areas. Our Public Safety Department, under the leadership of Director Lou Ward, assists with vehicle control and removal if necessary.

Custodial and janitorial staffs remove snow and ice from all building entrances and exits. Their responsibilities also extend to the closest crosswalk. A coordinated effort between these staffs and the street snow-plow crew assures that snow plows on the crosswalks don’t throw snow back onto the shoveled walks. In addition to shovels, the custodial staff uses Toro Snow-Pups to save labor. After Head Custodian Paul Murphy recommended this equipment, the staff reported it to be easy-to-operate, low-maintenance and in accordance with fire codes for storing in buildings. As important, however, is that the custodial staff likes using the units.

The campus uses between 200 and 300 tons of rock salt annually. Additionally, we use more than 100 50-pound barrels of potassium chloride (Koos’ Safe Step Ice Melter) yearly.

Equipping for the effort

The college’s roads-and-grounds shop is well-equipped for snow-removal efforts. Its equipment list includes dump trucks with plows, pickup trucks with plows, high lifts, skid-steer loaders, large salters (for roads and lots) and small salters for sidewalks (see boxed information, “Snow-removal equipment at Buffalo State College,” below). The skid-steers are equipped with either buckets, blowers or brushes. In addition, the crew uses small blowers, Snow-Pups and shovels.

Vehicle-maintenance supervisor Kloss is familiar enough with the equipment to recognize which parts have weaknesses. Thus, he works to ensure that the spare-parts inventory reflects the anticipated failure rate of that equipment. His preventive-maintenance (PM) techniques ensure that each piece of equipment is in top order at all times. For example, Kloss:

  • Employs regular PM efforts
  • Uses priority scheduling of equipment for failure repairs
  • Maintains an adequate spare-parts inventory to avoid “part-chasing”
  • Tracks repairs to aid in identifying frequent failure cases
  • Recruits staff specialization among workers so that each piece of equipment receives expert service.

Strictly adhering to the PM schedule is important because Kloss knows that—once winter hits—he and his staff won’t work a regular 8-hour day again until the first robin appears.

Handling the extra-heavy snowfalls

On occasion, Buffalo gets hit with an excessive amount of snow in a short time span. Because the campus is a compact facility, we can only pile up a certain amount of snow. After that, we must remove the excess snow to an off-campus site. When this happens, we contract with local trucking firms to remove the snow. Fortunately, that need occurs only once every 3 to 5 years.

As an outcome of attending a conference session at last spring’s Snow & Ice Management Association conference on the topic, we are looking into purchasing equipment for presetting sand and anti-icing. Adding these “weapons” to our arsenal should enable us to constantly stay ahead of Mother Nature’s antics. Plus, by employing these anti-icing techniques, we anticipate reducing our use of both rock salt and potassium chloride and providing a more ice- or snow-free environment.

Gary H. Kent is director of facilities maintenance at Buffalo State College (Buffalo, N.Y.).

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