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Developing a Plan for Snow and Ice Removal with Tim Holysz

Holysz, director of landscape services with Western Michigan University, discusses the importance of a plan that includes sustainability initiatives and preventive maintenance.

Tim Holysz
Director of Landscape Services
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, Mich.


You have an eight-section guide for snow and ice removal that includes more than 100 pages of maps, resources and policies. What steps did you take to compile this guide?
Our snow-removal plan, which we refer to as our snow book, is a work in progress. We began identifying everything that deals directly with snow-removal issues in the late 1980s. We wrote information down, organized it into an outline and sections, added maps for further clarification, and thus our snow book was created.

Our book continues to evolve as we think, plan, identify, and update our information. Winter in Michigan can linger more than five months – some say it feels like 12 – so we have plenty of time to examine our snow-removal operations and discover new efficiencies, routes, and better solutions, which we incorporate in next year’s action plan.

How are your deicing and anti-icing practices different now, compared to five or ten years ago?
We started researching and reviewing the new liquid tools 10 years ago to see if they could be used in our operations. Five years ago, we were anti-icing our walks and also started pre-wetting some of our bulk salt. Today, we pre-wet – or pile treat – all of our bulk salt supply for roads, parking lots, and walks, as well as continue to use anti-icing tactics on sidewalks. We use beet juice at 6 gallons per ton for a pre-wet, and we use an 80-20 mix – 80 percent natural brine and 20 percent beet juice – for anti-icing applications.

Last year was the first complete season of using pre-wetted bulk salt for everything, and the results were pretty amazing. Our roads, parking lots, and sidewalks were clean and wet, with visible pavement most of the time. While at the same time, neighboring roads were packed with ice.

Not only has this tool provided better results of terms of clearing ice, but it has also shown a salt-usage savings of 19 percent. Those savings came during an above-normal snowfall of 126 inches for the season; we normally average 72 inches of snow. This is a very good tool to use.

Can you talk about the importance of preventive maintenance in keeping equipment operating properly during snow and ice events?

You cannot downplay the importance of preventative maintenance (PM). At the end of the winter season, all our equipment is examined and needed upgrades and repairs are addressed. This practice allows our fall PM program to be a matter of routine with no surprises.

During snow and ice removal, how closely do you monitor turf and landscaped areas near walkways, roads, and entryways to minimize replanting in spring?
We use several tactics in addition to the obvious ones, which include installing sidewalk plow markers and silt fencing around sensitive plantings. Because we use pre-wetted salt, there is less bounce, so the product stays on or within the treated surface and is not wasted on the grass or landscapes.

As part of our planning, we work with the groundskeepers to analyze landscaped areas, as well as with university architects on new projects to minimize landscape plow and salt damage. We have been able to change designs by adding buffer strips or removing susceptible plantings.

What role does standardization play in ensuring you have the proper equipment and parts for snow and ice removal activities?
Standardization of equipment is another key component. It is especially important when breakdowns occur and time is critical, as standardization allows faster and more efficient repairs. For example, if a plow cylinder seal is leaking, the operator can drop the plow off with the mechanic, drive up and get a spare plow, and be back on the job within 15 to 20 minutes. This saves valuable downtime and lessens the impact on parts inventory.

Find more on this topic:

snow and ice removal, grounds care, grounds operations, anti-icing, deicing, snow, ice

posted:  2/8/2010