Grounds crew: Salt of the Earth

By Oteshia Hicks

Feb. 5, 2018

Temperatures in Cleveland have fallen below zero, the snow has begun to fall and as students prepare for bed, it has accumulated quickly. During an extremely cold, snowy winter night most people on campus are asleep in bed under a thick warm blanket.

This is not the case for Shehadeh Abdelkarim, director of facilities at Cleveland State University, and his groundskeeper team. During nights like this one, the team will prepare to ensure the safety of students who arrive in the morning.

Tim Square, superintendent of campus grounds, and Abdelkarim monitor weather activity and have notifications sent so they know how much staff they ‘ll need, arrival time and how personnel will be arranged.

On some occasions the team will arrive as early as 3 a.m. to clear the sidewalks of any snow, ice or slush on Cleveland State’s grounds.

The team consists of eight workers; six groundskeepers and two students. Abdelkarim said that the team manages 85 acres on the urban campus. To keep the walks clear within the 85 acres, more than $20,000 to $50,000 is spent on salt. Salt is used in most areas of the campus but to preserve the new concrete, they use calcium.

“So much salt is used we store it in a salt bin on 25th,” Abdelkarim jokes. “Go by. Take a picture of it. The bin is pretty big.”

The team gathers salt from the bin with Bobcats — small tractors that can dig into the salt bin and place it into a vehicle.

For smaller sidewalks, the team uses electric vehicles, which team members operate. An electric plow with a shovel is used for bigger sidewalks and bigger sidewalks call for outside contractors which can cost from $10,000 to $20,000 a year.

The groundskeeper team works hard at early dawn and in the late evening. They also worked to keep the Recreation Center’s sidewalk ice free during the holiday breaks, Abdelkarim explained, and always work late to keep the pathways clear and safe, during events at the Recreation Center and at the Wolstein Center.

The safety of each Cleveland State student is taken seriously, and the team makes every effort to make sure walkways are safe.

A committee that includes Abdelkarim, Police Chief Gary Lewis, the head groundskeeper, vice president and the university president decides whether to close the school based on the temperature, road conditions and snowfall.

“We strive hard to keep everyone safe,” Abdelkarim said. “and the employees are great. They never gripe, complain. They just come, no matter the time, and work hard. They are great.”



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