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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

“It’s like a little city,” says Grounds Manager Stadler on caring for Carleton’s campus

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Last Thursday, four of the five Grounds Maintenance crew members agreed to take a break from their jobs to meet with me in the back of the facilities building. They came into the office still wearing their work boots, official facility coats, and thick gloves.

After shaking my hand and sitting down, they asked me why I wanted to meet with them, so I told them: I wanted to know what they do during the winter to keep the school running that students may not notice.

Jay Stadler, the Grounds Manager, said their primary job over winter is to do snow removal, put up and maintain the ice rinks and sheds, and make sure the sidewalks are safe to walk on.

“We kind of joke that we want the campus ‘high­heel’ ready by 7am,” Stadler said, meaning that no one will slip no matter their shoe choice.

Some days this means getting to work as early as 3 in the morning.

“If we have an overnight snowfall, then we’ll get our staff together at 3 am. Custodial starts at 5 am, so us having that two hour interval to get complete control of the campus so we can get in and get the snow out before vehicles start to park,” Stadler said. “There’s days that it snows all day long, so all day we’re just chasing snow.”

According to area manager Joel Barsness, the worst part isn’t getting to campus at three, as much as anticipating it. He said he hates not knowing what the weather will do, or if he will get the call that he has to come in.

Barsness has worked at Carleton for 38 years, first as a custodian and then in the Grounds Department. He plans to retire at the end of the month. He switched to Grounds after taking classes to avoid the night shift and because he enjoys being outside.

“How do you replace that kind of institutional knowledge?” Stadler said of Barsness. “You can have the education and experience off site, but when you come on campus it still takes you a long time to understand.”

Area managers Tom Murry and Tim Schlaak have worked at Carleton for ten and twelve years, respectively.

Over the winter they work to maintain the grounds for other seasons. According to Barsness the crew used to pile up snow on the fields, but then realized that the salt hurt the vegetation.

“So, we’re trying not to pile it up to the vegetation now,” Barsness said. “We’re trying to make sure it’s in corners of parking lots, and stuff like that, so we can keep that salt from harming things.”

Stadler said that as they continue to improve their methods, the campus’s expectations get higher and higher.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that when our quality standards go up from the grounds perspective, the campus’s standards or expectations track really quickly,” Stadler said. “So we’re always judged by our last performance. I like that, personally, but sometimes it’s a challenge.”

The four laughed about a call they had received earlier from a faculty member about a slippery path. As it turned out, it was one of the paths through the snow that students had created.

Murry said it can be tough to only have four workers over the winter, and would prefer to have some extra help. Someone always has to work over the weekend, and with the snow, time can add up.

“I remember one winter it was a December, and it snowed every day, and I think we all only had one day off in a whole month,” Murry said.

Stadler urged students to keep an eye out for Grounds work vehicles, especially when it’s snowing. He said that students and pedestrians always have the right of way, but it’s sometimes difficult to see.

“Any chance you’re on campus, please keep an eye out, because we can’t see everything. That’s our main fear, if somebody got hurt,” Stadler said. “There will be mornings where if you look out your window, you’ll see flashing lights everywhere. But we try really hard to respect the quiet times around residence halls. It’s part of the business of keeping campus going. It’s like a little city. We probably treat it a little better than a city, once in awhile.”

Stadler stressed how much his workers care about campus and the students. They are always looking out to make improvements and take care of the grounds.

“Everyone on this crew is really invested in this campus. They really take this campus seriously,” Stadler said. “Everything they do is to make absolute improvements, or make it safer. It’s pretty amazing.”

When asked what they planned to do after the interview, Barsness said he was going to clear out shrubs by the Goodhue waterfall that had been bothering him.
“I’m going to go out and push a couple of dumpsters,” Murry said matter of factly, laughing.

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