Boston College Won’t Save On Snow Despite Mild Winter
Published: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
At this time last year, Chestnut Hill had experienced 77 inches of snow. This year, only eight inches have fallen. Cities across the northern United States learned their lesson from last year's intense snowfall and greatly increased their snow removal budgets for this winter. They are now faced with the decision of what to do with all of the extra money that they will not have to spend due to the mild winter. Boston College, however, does not expect to have this problem.
"We don't have a budget to handle a year like last year," said Regina Bellavia, associate director of grounds. "We start out with a budget every year that is based on averages. When we have a rare case like last year, I have to go back to the budget office and they pull from other places to find the money that is needed to support our operations."
Bellavia's budget is designed to handle 40 inches of snow. Despite having 32 inches left to work with this winter, she is not optimistic that she will go under budget.
"This year, we're on pace to be under budget; but that's not my expectation with the whole month of February ahead of us," Bellavia said. "If we did go under budget, the money would go back to the budget office and general funds and would then be given to an area of the budget that may be underfunded."
Though a good portion of the winter is over, Bellavia cannot be optimistic that she won't spend the rest of her budget when even a minor storm is extremely costly for the University.
"I would guess a two inch storm probably costs us $30,000," Bellavia said.
Students from cold areas of the country may not think much of two inches of snow, but when the safety of students is at hand, Bellavia and her crews take all measures necessary to protect students.
"We do whatever it takes to get the job done, to make sure BC is open and safe," Bellavia said. "The students are the first priority. They go from their dorm to their dining hall, and then they go from the dining hall to the academic buildings. These areas must be cleared for them. Sometimes there will be an athletic event that will throw a wrench into our plans, but the areas where students most commonly go are the first priority."
Whenever Bellavia sends her first crews out to start shoveling, she knows she has started a lengthy process. "When you push snow to make piles, and then those piles freeze, maintenance can go on for three days in a row," she said. "Once you start the process, you really have to do the whole process. We would love to not clean the snow up when there has been a very small storm and not start this process, but slips and falls can occur anywhere. The safety of our students is our number one priority, and the University also wants to avoid any lawsuits due to injury."
The high cost of clearing up even a small storm is due to BC's complicated geography and separate campuses.
"We have 215 sets of stairs that all have to be shoveled by hand," Bellavia said. "Our in-house staff concentrates on all of the sidewalks, staircases, and the entrances to buildings. We have contractors for each of the three campuses who use their heavy equipment to clear the roadways and parking garages. We rent smaller equipment as well."
Bellavia's job requires her to be flexible, and occasionally she loses sleep. "Our strategy is always the same, but our planning changes," she said. "It depends if it's a weekday or a weekend, or if there's an athletic event going on. We look at a bunch of different forecasts far ahead of time. Our staff comes in generally from 7:30 to 4, but if snow is expected to start at midnight, I have to let them go at 4 and tell them to be back here at 12. It's a tricky process. I try to go to sleep at night knowing that there's a plan and that we're comfortable with the plan. Otherwise, I'll be up all night looking out the window."
Many students only have one snow-based interest: snow days. The immense amount of effort Bellavia and her crews put into keeping the University safe and open makes school cancelations a rarity, but they do occasionally happen. What does it take for BC students to get a day off?
"That's an act of God," Bellavia said.