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The calendar recently turned to summer and the northern parts of the country are experiencing the kind of weather worthy of the reward of making it through months of snow, rain and gloomy conditions.
Sounds like the perfect time for facility managers to be planning for … winter snow removal.
Now is the time for managers to make their snow and ice management plans for winter, especially if they’re planning on outsourcing the tasks to a third party.
“Put your RFPs (requests for proposal) out in May and June, and try to make a decision no later than September,” says Kevin Shackleford of the Shackleford Group, a Delaware-based landscape company. “If you start going past September, guys are going to run out of availability and you’re not going to get someone of high quality. And contractors can’t get their hands on extra fleet.”
Snow removal was on the minds of many at the Snow and Ice Management Association's 25th annual Snow & Ice Symposium in Milwaukee recently, where Shackleford and others in the industry offered presentations for attendees.
Managers who outsource their snow removal and ice treatment should do their homework when selecting the right contractor to handle their facilities, says Michael Mayberry of the Level Green Landscaping in Washington, D.C.
“One of the most important things is if (contractors) can provide the service they say they’re going to do,” he says. “It’s more than, ‘Yes, I can do your lot.’ A hospital has zero tolerance and someone has to be there. It’s important to ask what equipment stacks look like, because if they’re saying they can service your property, and the contractor only has one truck and 10 contracts to meet, you won’t have a lot of faith the job will be done.”
Questions managers should be asking contractors include the amount of people on staff, how staffing works, and how does the company handle a long snow event?
“Being a larger company, we can say we have 300 people, so we have enough to rotate through, work 10-hour shifts and always have someone on site,” Mayberry says. “Ask if they really have the infrastructure to really handle your lot.”
Many facilities that outsource their lawn maintenance duties also sign on with the same companies for snow removal. But if they don’t, it’s essential that preparation for winter begins now.
Once the contractor and facility reach an agreement, Mayberry’s team will come out to the site before the snow season to evaluate the facility so that everyone is ready to go by the first snowfall.
“When we talk with property managers, part of our discovery process is finding out what areas always have to be high-touch clear,” he says. “It is just drive lanes, or does it matter if it snows on a Sunday on the property or can we wait and see what happens (with treatment?), or where we can place our salt hubs. Walking with property managers is really important, and we can’t get that information from anybody else.”
Dave Lubach is managing editor, Facility Group.
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