Several years ago, the Landscape Department consisted of two zones. Each zone formed a ‘SWAT’ team made up of full time and seasonal employees. Each team had five to seven members depending on the weather and how much needed to be done in each area where they were working. The original scope of work involved cleaning up and pruning overgrown shrub beds around buildings, power washing entry ways, and general clean-up to enhance curb appeal and overall aesthetics. It worked well until attrition of our workforce became so great, the loss of our seasonal help from custodial and the dinning commons for the summer, forced us into disbanding the ‘SWAT’ teams so that we could keep up with mowing, trimming, trash and litter. Obviously, there were many areas that suffered, and we’ve only been able to do periodic ‘band aid’ clean up and fix up jobs. We, as a group were not blind to this fact, and worked with budget and workforce constraints as best we could for a period of 5 years.
Within the past year or so, our budget has taken a few odd turns and we have been able to take on more full time help with hopes of more on the way. Now that we’ve been able to fill mowing and plow routes, litter and trash routes, and have been striving to operate more efficiently on a day to day basis, it was decided to make an attempt at a new ‘SWAT’ team.
The new team is made up of four Skilled Laborers and a Working Foreman. Two of the team members, Don Loper and Una Reiser work the Tuesday – Saturday shift, while Bill Allan and Dave LeBlanc work Monday – Friday. The Working Foreman who is spearheading the new endeavor is Dave Pielock, who is working under the advice and supervision of Gary Glazier, manager for Landscape and Construction Services. This team of five with their manager came up with a short list of prospective buildings to begin with. The deciding factors for these buildings are determined by how long it’s been since any work has been done, and the fact that eight of the newer buildings (soon to be ten) are considered “high profile” areas that have separate work orders where we have to track time and material.
Our scope of work hasn’t changed much from the days of the old ‘SWAT’ teams, but there are, and have been a few changes. First is the name. We decided to call ourselves “Landscape Special Projects” or “LSP”. Aside from the new name, we will also do what we can to make further maintenance less labor intensive as possible. Where time permits we are changing or removing small areas, shrub beds, islands, and blighted areas where nothing grows. Thompson Low Rise, as an example, will eventually have pavers and belgian block all around the outside of the building under the overhang that keeps everything but weeds, from growing.
Studio Arts is at this time finished with stage 1, but on our next tour through, a few more beds will be eliminated, plant material will be removed and new plants will be put in their place. The new plant material will be much better suited to a high traffic area and easier to maintain.
Gunness, Marsten, and Engineering Lab I, have just been gone through, with over grown beds being worked on, and with plants and shrubs being removed or transplanted.
The next task at hand is the entire Morrill Science complex of buildings. We are starting on the east side loading dock areas and will be working around the buildings, along with Wilder Hall, Clark Hall, and Shade Tree Lab. This will put us into early/mid June.
Buildings of concern for the rest of the summer will be Blaidsdale House/Photo Lab, Totman/Furcolo, Whitmore/Fine Arts, and Goodell/South Collage.
I hesitate to put any of these areas on a concrete schedule due to the fact that at any given day we may get pulled to go to Great Barrington, Mt Lincoln, concert clean-up after a Mullins event, clean-up after sports events, and of course the odd major storms that hit New England periodically throughout the summer months.
Obviously, some buildings need more attention than others. Our goal when starting a new building is to decide how much work needs to be done, how much work can be done on our first run through, while breaking the scope of work into three phases for each building, and finally by the third phase, cut down the amount of time needed to keep each building area maintained sustainably, and still be aesthetically appealing to the building’s occupants and the rest of the campus community.