Return of winter leads to campus closures

March 2, 2015

Jonathan Toman
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 Photos courtesy Jonathan Toman | The Scribe

Winter made its presence felt on campus last week, with UCCS closing on both Feb. 22 and 23.

Brian McPike, executive director of Public Safety, explained the process the school goes through to determine if a delay or closing is necessary.

McPike begins by acquiring information from various local sources including UCCS police officers on call, facilities services, area schools and the Colorado Springs Street Division to get an accurate assessment.

He then forwards his recommendation to Susan Szpyrka, vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, to talk through the information. Szpyrka has the ultimate authority on the decision.

McPike said on a bad weather day, he starts at 4:30 a.m. to look at reports and analysis. A decision is made by 6 a.m. at the latest. The decision to delay or close depends on the storm, and whether it will move out of the area or stick around.

The shuttles from Four Diamonds, as well as the ability of front wheel and rear wheel drive cars to get up Austin Bluffs, does play a role. McPike watched for accidents close to campus for the most recent closure.

“If it’s a safety issue for students, obviously we don’t want to take that chance,” he said.

Eastbound Austin Bluffs was closed Feb. 21 due to multiple stalled vehicles.

Facilities Services has as many as 30 staff to work on snow removal when a storm hits, according to Jeff Reed, associate director of Facilities Services.

For a snow event, a schedule is set for the team and shifts are often split, as was the case Feb. 22-23. Delays give Facilities Services extra breathing room.

“That allows us to get some more work done without the traffic flow,” Reed said.

One of the clean up areas is the top level of the parking garage. Usually, snow is removed by a dump truck and disposed of at a dirt lot by the greenhouse to melt.

But due to a second storm which hit Feb. 25-26, that process was not completed for the Feb. 22-23 storm, leaving two mounds of snow on the top level.

“We haven’t been able to get that mound off as we had hoped,” said Reed.

McPike encouraged students to communicate with their instructors if they feel unsafe about coming to school. UCCS Alerts, the UCCS website and social media are the best ways to find out closure and delay information. The snow line number is 719-255-3346.