Snow way out

Last year, Washburn spent over $70,000 on snow removal during a State of Disaster Emergency. This year, Washburn is set to spend nearly the same amount thanks to heavy amounts of snowfall.

Matthew Kelly

There are some who enjoy the recent snowfall – especially the snow days. The heavy winter weather affects both the students and the administration at Washburn with regard to safety, cancellation of campus activities and unexpected financial burden. It is difficult for the administration to adequately plan for the tumultous Kansas weather.  

Last year, Washburn Facility Services saw an unexpected strain on its budget due to the extreme amount of snowfall. This year, although  Topeka hasn’t seen as much snow at one time, the financial situation is much the same.

“We spent just over seventy thousand dollars last year,” said Bill Glatts, director of facility services. “This year, we’re sitting at just about forty-five [to] fifty [thousand dollars]. We’ll probably spend another twenty [thousand dollars], so we’ll probably be at seventy [thousand dollars] again.”

Of course, this strain on the facility services budget has forced the university to spend less money in other areas. So far, the money is being taken from areas like landscaping.

“Maybe less grass seed, less flowers. That sort of thing,” said Glatts. “There is no specific line item for snow removal. It’s just under the general facility’s budget, so the more snow things we do the less other things we can do”.

So far this year, facility services has used about forty thousand pounds of magnesium chloride (ice melt) on the campus sidewalk and steps, and fifteen thousand pounds of calcium chloride mixed with sixty thousand pounds of sand on the streets and parking lots.

“It’s a lot of material,” said Mike Jauken, chief of grounds keeping.  “We’re getting ready to go through a lot more with this one that’s coming up.”

None of these figures include this week’s snowfall, which will require even more use of material from facility services.

In order to help Washburn grounds keeping with their snow removal efforts, it is helpful for drivers on campus to park with their front bumpers clear of the curbs.

“Cars always pull up their bumper over the sidewalk, and what happens is, that makes it real hard for us to remove snow, plus to throw ice melt,” said Jauken. “If they could just park so their car is back from the curb, that would really help us.”

Facility services’ next expense follows this week’s winter storm, which began with freezing rain and sleet Monday before turning into snow early Tuesday morning. The storm is estimated to accumulate up to 12.85 inches of snow in Topeka, and as much as 16 inches in southeast Kansas. Monday’s ice storm took its toll on the city, with several wrecks occuring around the area because of slick spots on the road. State offices in Topeka and Shawnee County were closed Tuesday and will be closed Wednesday, and WIBW-TV news director Jon Janes announced via Twitter that they had a record 412 closings at 4:35 p.m. City manager Norton Bonaparte issued an inclement weather declaration for the city, which resulted in city facilities and non-emergency services being closed by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The continued snowstorm made Washburn University and Washburn Institute of Technology remain closed for all of Tuesday and Wednesday in response to the weather conditions.

With temperatures set to stay below freezing, and for the most part in negative digits, until at least Friday, there is little chance that the accumulated snow and ice will have a chance to melt before the next snow storm, which is predicted to begin Sunday, Feb. 6. Temperatures could get as high as 40 degrees by Thursday, Feb. 10, which may be the first chance for significant snow melt.