By day, they are maintenance workers and groundskeepers at The Ohio State University at Mansfield. But when snow is in the forecast, the “Snow Dawgz” are the first, and sometimes only, employees who are required to report to work.
“They are relentless,” said Brian White, superintendent, Mansfield Campus Plant Operations and Maintenance. “They clear the snow and then are expected to take care of setting up for meetings and building maintenance and all of their normal duties. They are very proud of their ability to keep the campus open.”
Nicknamed “Snow Dawgz” by a professor a few years ago, they travel snow-packed roads from Lucas, New Washington, Crestline and Ashland, as well as from Mansfield, usually rousted by a phone call about 3 a.m., to prepare the campus by 7 a.m. for employee and student arrival. The campus rarely closes for snow events.“We usually arrive within about a half-hour after the call,” said Tim Robinette, groundskeeper. “Some of us live in adjacent counties where it might be a higher level snow emergency than Richland County. We still try to report for duty if we can safely.”
The crew of nine is responsible for several miles of roadways on the Mansfield campus, as well as sidewalks and more than a half-dozen large parking lots that service both Ohio State Mansfield and North Central State College.
Equipment does dual duty – six pick-up trucks are retrofitted for winter with snow plows, a loader is used to fill a salt truck, and tractors are fitted with plows and sweepers to clean sidewalks. A local snow removal company is on speed-dial in case heavier equipment is needed.
Their work this season has been nearly non-stop. They have had more call-ins, as they refer to the early morning phone calls, to date than all of last year, according to Larry Stimpert, building maintenance superintendent. In a typical winter, the “Snow Dawgz” respond to about 20 to 25 call-ins. By mid-January this year, they’ve already reported for snow duty 19 times.
There’s only one shift and they sometimes work 12 to 14 hours before leaving. Crews usually bring clothes, sleeping bags and food for the rare occasion when they can’t get back home.
Every snow is different, Robinette says. Depending on the temperature and humidity, at times crews can use brushes on the tractors to clear fluffy snow, while at other times plows are needed to push the snow into large mounds at the edges of parking lots. Crews must hand-shovel several stairways.
“That sub-zero weather tore us up,” Robinette said. “The last few snows, it’s taken us two or three days to clean the parking lots and access areas. Then the snow melts, it freezes at night and we are back at it the next day to remove the ice. We really look forward to spring.”