Grounds crew travels to snow and ice convention

Jinae West

Three members sent to Pa. for wintertime maintenance training

As temperatures still loomed in the 60s and 70s, three members of the grounds crew traveled to a Pennsylvania ski resort last week.

But what they learned had little to do with skiing.

Rebekkah Berryhill, Frank Mulneix and Mike Pennock attended “Managing Snow and Ice Control Operations,” a convention dedicated to effective winter maintenance, Sept. 22 and 23 at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Allentown, Pa. The two-day course covered topics such as weather forecasting, state highway operations and the use of chemicals and abrasives.

It was the first time the grounds crew sent members to the convention. Groundskeeping supervisor Pennock said it probably wouldn’t be the last, even though lodging per person cost approximately $400 and the course itself was $800.

“I would imagine we’ll eventually send more people so we’ll have a continued education among the staff,” he said.

At the convention, the groundskeepers met eight hours each day with about 50 others from Delaware, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“It was put on by the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Pennock said, “and I think they know a little bit about snow there.”

Apparently, so does Kent State. Berryhill, who has been an equipment operator at the university for 12 years, said she learned the grounds crew is doing the right things as far as snow and ice removal.

“It reassured us,” she said. “We’re not behind the eight ball like we sometimes feel.”

“I mean, yeah, it’s a tough challenge when we get 20 inches of snow on a weekend,” Pennock added, referring to the heavy accumulation in February, “but we had campus ready to go on Monday afternoon.”

The convention, Pennock said, was an opportunity to better service the community. And he put it proudly when he said while other places may close down, the university stays open for business.

“There’s an end point when your sidewalks clear,” Berryhill said, “and there’s definite gratification when students are walking to their car or if they’re on crutches. They can get to the dining halls, we can pull off a basketball game or two wrestling matches at the M.A.C. Center, or graduation. Just keeping the university operating.”

Berryhill said it’s a collaborative effort to keep the campus snow- and ice-free, not only within Campus Environment & Operations, but also with students, faculty and staff.

“That’s the biggest thing we have to deal with – unrealistic expectations – and we’ve been trying to get that message out for years,” Pennock said. “When it snows and your driveway is full of snow, chances are when you get to the university, there’s still going to be some snow.”

Nevertheless, improved technology has helped the effectiveness of snow and ice removal over the years. It was one of the things that impressed Pennock the most at the convention. He ran down a list of equipment that has developed in the past decade: infrared technology in trucks, silver towers near highways to measure ambient air temperature and speed of traffic and Web cams.

Pennock said he might install a few cameras near Campus Center, Hilltop and Midway drives to monitor weather conditions and get an early jump on the roads.

But Berryhill had a better idea.

“I think we should install a bat signal on campus,” she said. “But instead of a bat, it should just be a huge snowflake.”

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jinae West at [email protected].