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Snow means go

Facilities Management ready to clear campus

By David Sorensen

The provincial government is reminding people this winter that snow means slow, an ad campaign designed to reduce accidents caused by poor driving conditions. For the dedicated Facilities Management crew responsible for keeping Memorial’s St. John’s campus clear, snow is the green light to go.

Bob Walsh is the manager of Building Services and Grounds in Facilities Management. He co-ordinates the response on the St. John’s campus when snow hits, whether it’s two centimetres or two metres.

Since Campus Enforcement are on campus 24 hours a day, snow reports in the early hours usually come from them. The call then goes to a utility foreperson in Facilities Management who makes an assessment on the level of need for snow clearing. It’s then that the external contractor gets called, along with the university staff if needed. That call can come any time of the day or night.

The campus’s own response team is actually relatively small, Mr. Walsh said. While a contractor is responsible for the main roadways and parking lots, the Facilities Management team of 12 people and custodial staff take care of everything else.

The list of secondary areas that need snow removal includes stairwells, fire hydrants, storage tanks, tunnel entrances, and the roof of the Health Sciences Centre.

The contractor is also responsible for Memorial’s buildings on Mount Scio Rd., and the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) in Logy Bay.

“We do the ‘got-tos’ first,” said Mr. Walsh.

The places on that list include student residences – since people live here snow or not – and the Health Sciences Centre, for obvious reasons.

Clearing the campus on a typical snowy day is a challenge of timing, said Mr. Walsh.

Adding to the challenge is the nature of the Newfoundland winter, with its winds that often dump more snow in some areas than others. Mr. Walsh pointed to a December day last year when Environment Canada said 20 centimetres had fallen, but some drifts on the St. John’s campus were one-metre high.

On the days when the weather is too bad to open, the system still follows the same pattern, he said. The snow still needs to be cleared – especially around the residences and HSC.

“The HSC is still a priority even during a storm,” he said. “We focus on keeping the main roadways open until the storm abates.”

For a list of alternate parking spaces and more information, see