Author Archives: pplant

W. E. B. Du Bois W. E. B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite

The home site of William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.) Du Bois (for whom the UMass Amherst main library is named) is located on South Egremont Road in Great Barrington, MA.  Du Bois lived there for the first 5 years of his life and then moved into the center of town.

W. E. B. Du Bois was given the home in 1928.  He had plans to rehabilitate it but due to financial and logistical reasons could not and had to sell it in 1954.  The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and donated to the state in 1987. It is maintained by UMass Amherst, its Physical Plant Division and the W. E. B. Du Bois Library along with the members of the UMass Anthropology department and the Friends of the W. E. B. Du Bois homesite.

A path created by the UMass Physical Plant crew.

A path created by the UMass Physical Plant crew.

The UMass Physical Plant staff first became involved in bettering the homesite around 2006.  The grounds crew has rid the area of poison ivy and poison oak.  Physical Plant cleared and surfaced a parking area.  They cleared and forged a path from the parking area to the home site and constructed a platform over the actual location of the original cellar hole of the home.  The cellar hole was filled in with general mason sand.  The different medium in the cellar hole allows the field schools the Anthropology department holds to identify what was put there versus the organic material.

Emily Felder & Ryan Howe excavating an archaeological unit during the UMass Archaeology Summer Field School, 2012.

Emily Felder & Ryan Howe excavating an archaeological unit during the UMass Archaeology Summer Field School, 2012.

The Anthropology department has conducted four field schools for archeological digs at the homesite in 1983, 1984, 2003, & 2012.  These events give students experience in archeological processes.  Over the years they have unearthed dishes, shoes, ice skates, metal bottles and toys among other items.

The crew is scheduled to go to the homesite a minimum of 4 times a year: one visit in the spring, two in the summer and 1 in the fall.  But they will always go if there is a special request.

New interpretive signage was installed at the homesite last year.  The signage was prepared by UMass Physical Plant and installed by a contractor.

How we rate custodial staff

When you walk into a classroom and notice the shiny floor, clean windows, and no dust on the chalk tray, you can thank the area custodian.

Do you ever wonder how custodians are rated?  How areas are judged for cleanliness?  Well, the Physical Plant Grounds & Custodial Department hires a consultant to visit campus three times a year to critique the cleanliness of various locations in academic areas.  Sanitation Systems, Inc. (SSI) out of Thorndike, MA visits campus and, with a very specific rating form for each type of area (restroom, classroom, office, stairwells etc.), rates different rooms on campus.  They use a weighted system to rate the cleanliness, the order (clutter) and the maintenance of each of six areas in a room: the floor, equipment, walls, ceiling windows and lights.  The order and maintenance of a room are areas over which the custodian has no control and therefore create a handicap by which the scores are calculated.  No one space is critiqued on consecutive visits, but each service area is visited each time.

We ask SSI to come in so that fresh eyes see our work.  These audits show if there is a need for extra time in a given area, or if new equipment may be needed.  UMass staff may not see these issues because we’re there day-in and day-out, but an outside customer (or a perspective student and his or her parents) will.  It helps to keep our staff sharp.

This consultant has been working with UMass Amherst custodial services for about 10 years and has kept records from each visit.  They can compare a visit from two years ago in LGRT 3rd floor to that from their most recent visit and see if the issues are the same, or different, and can help the custodial supervisor identify ways in which to help the area custodian.

If you have special custodial requirements, please contact the Physical Plant custodial services manager, Donald Sullivan, at, or (413) 577-1007.

Central Campus water main break

June 6, 2013, the UMass Campus experienced a water main break.  The break was located between Goodell, South College and the W.E.B. Du Bois library.

wmb01 wmb02 The Utilities crew secured the potable water supply utilizing an underground valve, this shut off of water caused a temporary break in service to the South College building.  During this time, the Utilities Mechanical Crew and the Construction Service crews brought on site all the necessary tools and equipment to the site to perform the necessary repair.





  • The Mechanical Utilities employees worked quickly to install and test a temporary back flow preventer device to get potable water from the distribution system  to South College so that the building had running water again by noon that day;
  • An emergency Dig Safe was ordered.  Roy Page was on the scene within an hour measuring, testing and marking areas where underground utility lines (water, electrical, gas, etc.) are located.
  • Electrical Utilities called in to secure electrical service;
  • Construction Services brought heavy equipment to the location to dig and to move the large concrete planters over the sight of the break;
  • Fencing was constructed to block off the area and to provide a safe environment for the campus and the workers;
  • Although the weather at the time was dry, the weather forecast for the next few days was not favorable so it was decided to hold off digging immediately until the weather cleared.  While it is not unusual for these crews to work outdoors in bad weather it was determined that since temporary water had been restored to the building the actions could wait until the weather cleared.
  • Once the site was dug, Mechanical Utilities found and repaired the break.  They did so by cutting out a 10 foot section of the more than 50 year old, compromised pipe and installed a new section of cement lined ductile iron pipe and secured them with the appropriate restraining clamps.
  • The remaining old pipe and the section of new pipe were chlorinated and disinfected to be sure no contaminants would enter the new water main.
  • The site was then partially filled and the Building Maintenance plumbing employees were called in to run flushing lines to flush out the system so particulates would not go through the system.
  • The hole was filled and then paved and returned to normal.


Campus wide fire hydrant flushing for 2013

Starting on Tuesday July 23rd and running approximately five weeks, or until completion, the fire hydrants on campus will undergo the annual flushing process.

Flushing will begin at 3:00 p.m. and run until 9:00 p.m. every weekday.  The perimeter of the campus will be done early in the shift and the core later in the shift.  We will notify residential areas two days before flushing.  This will include North Village and Lincoln Apartments.

Flushing of Fire Hydrants is an important preventative maintenance activity to help insure the integrity of the potable water system and the deliver of quality water to our campus population.  Flushing the hydrants remove sediments from the pipe, insures that the fire hydrants and valves are operating as intended, and helps to identify closed valves and weak flows.

Users may notice a discoloration in the water due to the flushing.  In the event that this does occur please open up your faucet and allow it to run water until it clears up.

If you have any questions or concerns about this project, please contact Tom Fydenkevez at: or 413-230-2143.

We thank you for your patience and cooperation during this critical process.

Physical Plant Spring/Summer Landscape Projects

Kermit the Frog may have coined the phrase “It’s not easy being green,” but the Landscape Management crew at UMass proves it on a daily basis.

Maintaining the more than 400 acres of UMass Amherst is the very large task of the Landscape Management team.  But within that team is a dedicated group of 5 people that oversee special projects throughout the spring and summer.  Dave Pielock heads up the team and this summer they are working on beautifying areas of campus while making them more maintenance friendly.

Recently, the Studio Arts Building received some TLC from the team.  The issue of water dropping off of the roof on to dirt/gardens and splashing mud onto the building making it look dirty all the time.  The team removed the gardens from the east edge of the building and put in river stone to eliminate the problem.  Below is the final product.


This change also allows for the beauty of the building to be realized.  Why cover a building that is designed to be beautiful?

Thompson and Machmer are the focus of a multi-phase plan to remove mulch around the buildings and replace with river stone and pavers.  These changes will cut down on the cleanup of debris that is blown into corners and also when it rains having to clean up the mulch that washed downhill.



The North Residential Complex is the site of another multi-phase project.  The team will be cleaning existing shrub beds including consolidating and replanting some overgrown gardens.  This will clean up the lines of the landscape and allow for easier maintenance of the Complex.


The Central Heating plant provides a very interesting issue.  The many retaining ponds, (areas of large stones that catch and hold large amounts of water that eventually evaporates) routinely need to be cleared of overgrown brush to continue to operate correctly.  The footing in these ponds isn’t very stable and using the power equipment needed to clear them (brush saws, etc) can be hazardous.  Clearing a retaining pond can take more than a full day for two people to clear.  They are very labor intensive and due to the nature of the ponds, chemicals are unable to be used.  A growth inhibitor is being looked into to help with this problem.

If you see the special project crew while you are out and about on campus thank them for the time and effort they put in to make being green look easy!

Physical Plant Kudos


Permella Broussard and Edgar Berry cleaned carpeting in a well-used student lounge in Morrill 218. Martha Baker, Associate Dean of the College of Natural Sciences wrote to thank them for a job well done.

Steve Rule keeps the loading dock in the Goodell Building clear of snow and debris. Rob Leveille, Mail Services Supervisor, wrote to thank Steve, and to express appreciation for the pride Steve takes in his work. He is an “excellent employee.”

Dennis Bruffee, James Clevenger, and Mike Guzik responded quickly to a request in Goessmann 267. Marvin Ellin lauded them for “excellent support.”

Justin Cobb and Jan Powers received thanks from Diane Keedy of the Isenberg School of Management for their help in resolving key and coring issues at ISOM. “You are tremendous assets to your organization and to the University.”

Construction Services, Mechanical Utilities, and Dig Safe personnel, during some nasty and frigid weather, did an outstanding job coping with water main breaks. Tom Fydenkevez of PP thanks the crews for their outstanding job in very demanding conditions.

Buildings and Grounds and Pam Monn saved the day on Mt. Lincoln by laying stones and improving road conditions on short notice. Charles Dube of WFCR expressed gratitude to all.

Grounds folks received numerous kudos for clearing snow this winter, including from Linda Rotondi of UHS, and Robert Laford of EH&S,  & Ann Becker of UHS, & Casey Heverling of the Mullins Center.

South College is in good hands with Jeremiah Kermensky and the custodial staff. Joanne Dolan wrote to thank them for a great job maintaining South College, and the staff’s level of efficiency was applauded.

Randy Boivin and Sondra Slezinski receive kudos from Ben Caron and Jeff Bryan for teaching an enjoyable and instructive Dig Safe class.

Tsultrim Dolma is keeping the bathrooms in LGRC sjpotless! Zack Strangman of OIT wrote to thank her.

Dennis Bruffee and his crew did a superlative job on the floors in Goessmann. “They look fantastic!” wrote Mike Barnes of the Chemistry and Physics Depts.

Custodial and Landscape Services worked cooperatively to help make the Isenberg Open House a success. Everything looked “amazing,” writes Meghan Smith.

Dan Kibe and Deby Lee each wrote from the Food Science Department to thank:

John Presto for the brilliant job painting

Sherry Braithwaite for extra diligence in cleaning

Teresa Fydenkevez, Paul Jones, Steve Socha, Vanna Kog, Dechen Dolma, Xiuhua Mu, and Jerry Pelkey for helping to make everything sparkle!

Landscape Services and Todd Cournoyer made the 2013 Class Tree Planting a success. Stephanie Flaherty from Development wrote, “thank the staff for a wonderful job in making everything go smoothly!”

Mike Townsend, Ray Samson, Juan Roberts, and Paul Santos gave “excellent customer service and quick response,” to a situation in South College. Each one did their part to correct an issue with lack of heat, and made the building comfortable once again. Joanne Dolan appreciates “a great staff.”

Landscape Services has made this campus beautiful, and Peter Gray-Mullen of Design and Construction Services wrote to thank them and Pam Monn. “Hats off to you and the crews!”

Dan McCarthy, Juan Roberts, Ray Samson, and their crews did a great job assisting the “gala” at the Recreation Center. John Blihar, Director of the Rec Center thanks “everyone who contributed to making it a great event.”

Juan Avala, Sue Snowden, & Dave McGrath took on a short-notice floor cleaning job and did a superlative job. Mark Lecki writes, “Superb clean and wax on short notice. You did a fabulous job.”

Commencement workers of all stripes: KUDOS ! The Physical Plant staff gave wonderful support during all the activities. Lorraine Robidoux of the College of Engineering thanks you, as does Physical Plant Interim Director Raymond Jackson for a job well done with good humor and efficiency!


Commencement is a large event no matter how you look at it.  The students’ final event of their Undergraduate (or Graduate) career is full of pomp and circumstance.  But have you ever thought about how long it takes the campus to look so nice or how much hard work goes into it?


Beginning in the spring, Physical Plant employees are working tirelessly to beautify the stadium.

-10 gallons of paint were used for touch ups inside and outside the stadium

-Construction of bases for the 55+ International Flags used prior to the ceremony

-The 55+ bases used during the ceremony for the International Flags were touched up

-The gates to the field are being cleaned and oiled for ease of use

-The 1st landing of the bleachers was repaired by a mason

-Ramps were constructed to ease the transition between the sidewalk and the field

All of this was in place by Monday, May 6th because the flooring, stage and chairs arrived the next week.

Pic1 Other detailed work that the Physical Plant was involved with for Commencement included the following:

-The Landscape Services Management staff planted flower boxes, planters and gardens to beatify the entire campus.

-The green space was cared for after the winter took its toll.

-Four Physical Plant Commencement planning meetings occurred to aid in the communication and coordination throughout the plant staff.

-The company was hired for the stage landscape; two moving trucks were rented for use during commencement week.


All staff were in high gear to make sure that the graduates and their guests had a wonderful experience at the University of Massachusetts 144th Commencement exercises.

Physical Plant Kudos

Hard Worker
Leslie Hiller, a Business Manager in Herter Hall, thanks Brian Pierce, who is a Maintainer in Custodial Services. He takes initiative, is kind, and is doing a great job. He jumps in to offer help when he sees a problem. “We notice and appreciate anything done to improve the Herter environment.”

Moving Team
Rebecca Dufault of Hillside wrote to thank the Moving Team for all their help. “Their assistance in cleaning and moving the chairs was an incredible help!”

Bartlett Auditorium
Andre Gazaille has the responsibility of keeping the highly-used and much-trafficked Bartlett Auditorium clean. Richard Halgin, Professor of Psychology, wrote to commend Andre’s excellent work. He “went the extra mile,” and worked professionally and with good humor and in a timely manner.

Retired Vice Chancellor Hatch
Now-retired Vice Chancellor Hatch wrote to Pam Monn to thank the whole Landscape Team for their efforts around the flag poles in the summer and through the Fall. “Beautiful plantings! Best I have seen,” she wrote.

Artists, All
Nour Bishout and Sarah Horne wrote to thank John Stolsz and Chris Drake of the Grounds Dept for their help with the installation of an art project at the Fine Arts Center. “The Pike” was installed by “an able crew” and with the use of a lift. “I really appreciate your help coordinating the project installation and generous use of both the able crew and the lift. They got to work immediately and finished the job in a couple of hours!”

What a Relief!
So wrote Karen Searcy of the Biology Department, referencing the work ethic of Nancy Gessing of Custodial Services. She “has done much more than we ever expected.” During the major re-arranging of cabinets and equipment, “imagine our surprise” when years of accumulated and inaccessible dust was “already” removed during late summer. “She has our deep thanks. What a relief!”

Architecture Area at FAC
Patrick McNaney of Custodial was profusely thanked by Jean Crossman of FAC for his “no excuses” efforts that go above and beyond to keep the Architecture area spic and span. “He has done cleaning miracles up here on the classroom bridge.” High praise!

@ Herter Annex
“As always, Steve Gretchel did another excellent job in cleaning and polishing the floor of our busy Conference Room. Our film studies director, Catherine Portuges, was very, very pleased with the outcome,” wrote Alice Bishko. Congrats!
Shari LaRock, Ed Baranowski, Christina Branche, and Mike Guzik made the floors in OIT look amazing for the start of the Fall semester. “I don’t know if you saw it beforehand, but even though the floor is only about two years old, it looked like it was fifteen years old. Now, it looks almost new! We truly appreciate the great work they do on the floors,” wrote Jo Martone.

Event Ease
Susan Young, Business Manager at School of Education, wrote to thank Mark Chabot for his help with a School of Ed special event. “I received a number of compliments for Mark, who covered the event. He was extremely helpful. Never hurts to let you know when someone has done a really good job!”

Empowering Assistance
Daniel Pepin wrote to thank Susan Paquette for a quick response in dealing with some issues arising from messy graduate students.  She not only cleaned up their mess, she also left the room with receptacles and signs to help the students police themselves better. “Once again, a job well done.”

A Day Doesn’t Go By . . .  
The Grounds Department received a beautifully written thank you note from Deputy Chief of Police Patrick Archbald.  “A day doesn’t go by that someone from the Grounds Crew is not attending to the property around the UMPD. I mean, really!” he wrote. “Keeping up with the tons of fallen leaves, trimming the bushes, watering, turning over the wood chips around the building – it has all been very much appreciated.” “They do a great job!”

Comparisons Prove Phys Plant Superior
Robert Laford of Environmental Health and Safety noted that in the wake of a recent storm, the campus looked superior to other areas nearby. “Hard work and maintenance” of the Physical Plant staff throughout the year paid “dividends” upon inspection of the campus following the storm. “Nice job!”

West Experiment Station
Lateral Steam Line Replacement meant many Utilities hands were “on deck.” Excavating, code welding, and electrical work all needed to collaborate to get the job done. Ray Jackson thanks everyone who worked on this project!

Vice Chancellor’s Office
Dan Poirier of Building Maintenance was thanked “with enthusiasm and extreme gratitude” by Carol Forman, who had in issue with a couple of framed pieces that were broken, while needing to be hung. Dan hustled and made magic happen, and Carol is one very satisfied customer. Yey!

Planning Spring Plantings

Jennifer Konieczny from Physical Plant landscape Management has planted our spring Pansy’s in the greenhouse. The 1600 spring plant matrix is equal parts yellow, blue, and lemon.  We will have 1500 seed started plants delivered in February which also will be grown in the greenhouse, and we have purchased 2000 6″ pots which will be delivered in the spring from 5 acre Farms.

The process for the pansy’s from seed to planting is aprox. 12 weeks.  Our goal is to have the pansy’s ready to go in the ground by the first week of April. The annuals will be used in the beds around campus (Haigis mall, round-about and planters, and visitor center) to name a few. Ray Laclaire and staff have started to build a smaller hoop house next to our exsisting greenhouse which we salvaged from the old greenhouses that were removed from campus. This area will be used for harding-off some of the plants before they go into the ground; this process is usually a week or two.

Physical Plant Kudos

He’s a Rock!

The Office of Waste Management is indebted to Maintenance Working Foreman Dennis Purdy for being willing and able to solve customer service issues wherever and whenever they arise. “He’s a rock!” Especially during the last four months, he has especially been exceptional. Thanks Dennis! Carey Simons from the School of Public Health also wrote to thank Dennis, who saved a piece of expensive equipment from being erroneously recycled.


Chancellor’s House

Rebecca Dufault wrote to thank Building Maintenance and Grounds staff for working “So hard” to prepare the Chancellor’s house for the new Chancellor and his family. The Subbaswamys can “begin to relax and live at Hillside.”


Residential Life thanks Physical Plant

Ted Mone, Associate Director for Facilities Operations in Resident Life wrote to thank Utility Plumbers, Equipment Operators, Watch Tour, Work Control, and Randall Boivin (Dig Safe) for a quick and efficient response to North Village Apartments when there was a water main break. “They all responded promptly and completed their work in a professional manner under difficult conditions, including a confined work site, darkness, high outside temperatures, and above all most of them had just completed their regular shift.”


Shiny Floors

Sue McFarland from the Asian Arts & Culture program wrote to thank Wendi Burton for the outstanding job she did cleaning and waxing the floors. “Great care was taken moving the furniture and everything was put back in place.”


Cleaners Extraordinaire

Wilmore Webley from Microbiology wrote to thank Mike Dufresne, Gil Rogers, Joe Galica Jr. and Shun Wang for “doing such an incredible job” cleaning his offices in Morrill IV. He apologized for not doing his part of the prep work, and applauded the team for doing the whole task anyway. “Keep up the great work!”


Dubois Homesite

Bob Paynter of Anthropology wrote to thank Becky Walton and the Landscape Crew who did “a wonderful job completing the installation of the new paths.” The area is safer and beautified. “They got creative and added a very nice sitting area that is a circle just off the new northern path, including using some very large tree logs for seating. It is a real added touch.” The platform is also a wonderful plus at the Homesite. “It looks very handsome and attracts people to stand” there, which was what we wanted. The neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock also praised the good hard work the crew does. “It is such an honor to work with Becky and Ray Leclair.”



Acting Chief of Police Patrick Archbald wrote to thank Joseph Galica Sr and Maida Perez for the work they are doing in the new UMPD. “This place is spotless from top to bottom! The floors, the glass, the tables, everything is as clean as the day it arrived brand new!” “We are getting nothing but compliments.”


Quick Customer Service

Jennifer Donais from the Office of Research Compliance wrote to thank Lisa Jarvis of the Physical Plant Service Desk for “quick action” and for advice on how to accomplish the desired service. Kudos, Lisa!


On the Spot

Dan Pepin of GRC wrote to thank Gary Glazier for help Dan received from two summer interns in the Landscape Department. When glass was inadvertently dropped in a roadway, they were on the spot putting out traffic cones and cleaning the road surface.



Martha Berger of Undergraduate Admissions wrote to thank Edmund Stasz, Alain Corriveau, and Rich Piskorski for polishing floors to a glossy sheen, scrubbing and cleaning a storage area, and vacuuming a basement – “which was surely above and beyond the call of duty!” All areas needed attention, and the crew did a fabulous job. Deep appreciate for the conscientious job they do.


Shiny Floors

Marilyn Orszulak, Ed Baranowski, and Johnathan Monson were thanked by Jennifer Normanly of Biochemistry for shiny floors that “look great!”