“That last one was a tough one,” Shelton said, peering at the depleted pile of road salt in a small Facilities Operations warehouse on Gate City Boulevard.
As the Assistant Director for Grounds, Shelton is responsible for carrying out much of UNCG’s winter weather plan. Along with a team of Grounds employees, and help from many staff in Facilities Operations, Shelton helps keep university sidewalks and roads clear from snow and ice.
According to Shelton, the university used about 90 percent of the 30 tons of road salt stored in the warehouse during the January 2016 snowstorm.
When Shelton began working with University Facilities 27 years ago, sprinkling sand on the sidewalks was the best tactic the Grounds Department had for offering traction on the sidewalks during a snowstorm. But the university has come a long way since then, Shelton said, as he awaited the shipment of road salt.
Some of the salt will be mixed with rain water collected on the grounds. This mixture, called brine, is used to pre-treat roads before the storm. Oftentimes, a treatment of the brine or salt will be applied to Spring Garden Street at 2 a.m. when traffic has died down. Because Spring Garden is considered a secondary city street, it typically will not be cleared by the city so it’s up to the Grounds crew and cross-campus support to keep the street and its sidewalks cleared.
After a treatment of brine or salt is applied a snow plow will clear enough space for an emergency vehicle to operate on the street.
Facilities Operations keeps two snowplows in a warehouse on-site and if the anticipated storm is big enough Shelton will rent more. But even making a reservation costs money. Deciding between cost and efficiency is a large part of the job. “It’s sort of stressful sometimes,” Shelton said.
According to Shelton, it’s the support from all facets of campus operation that help keep the walkways passable. Volunteers from across campus will pick up shovels to clear entranceways and paths through campus. If icy roads make for a dangerous commute, Housing & Residence Life will often offer a vacant room to an employee. And according to Shelton, the administration has been behind the operation, providing the funding to keep roads and walkways clear.
“We’re all in it together on this,” Shelton said.
By Daniel Wirtheim