by Becky Rowe
As students and faculty returned to the University of Regina for the second semester, they found themselves within the grip of a familiar foe. With temperatures as a low as – 40 C and nearly three feet of snow, the campus was engulfed in the cold, dark shadow of Old Man Winter.
Fortunately for the citizens of the U of R, there is a special force of labour service people whose task is to keep the university clear during winter’s reign. Armed with shovels and snow-blowers, these men and women work tirelessly to ensure the school is secure and accessible despite the snowy build-up.
“Safety is our number one priority,” said Jared Edwards, manager of custodial services at the U of R. “We have a very knowledgeable staff and there are a number of areas that need to be kept clear.” While clearing snow from a campus the size of the U of R is obviously a large undertaking, the majority of the work falls on the shoulders of just five individuals. This mobile crew is regularly in charge of moving, set-up and deliveries throughout the school. However, at the first sign of snowflakes they don their winter armour and brave the vicious cold to clear the school of snow and ice.
“There is an endless amount of duties. We do everything from freight, to print services to welding projects. But (when it snows) you just have to go do what you have got to do,” said Don Larsen, foreman of the Utility Labour Force.
Despite his modest words, Larsen and his crew – Kevin Bourassa, Shannon Konanz, Jason George and Shane O’Halloran – have become a vital part of campus services. Often they work very long hours and weekends to void all stairways, entrances and roof tops of snow.
Their efforts allow the university to function efficiently even in less than ideal weather conditions. “I don’t think they get enough recognition for the work they do. Everyone knows what it is like to shovel snow, but imagine doing that for an eight hour work day,” said Edwards.
"They are professionals and we are more than happy do have them on our staff.” With the labour force taking care of campus’ main walkways, the university relies on the contracted services of N.L. Serbu & Sons Equipment to provide bobcats, graters and dump trucks to remove snow from the major roads.
Though the crew may remain relatively anonymous, their work certainly has not gone unnoticed. Many students are impressed with how well and how quickly the snow has been cleared, especially compared to other areas in the city.
“I couldn’t believe how fast the roads were cleared when we had that big dump of snow a few weeks ago,” said fifth-year student Ryan Decosse. “It has been almost a week since then and some of the (city) roads around the school still haven’t been touched. It is nice to be able to walk get around the school without having to battle the snow.”
So as the students and staff continue trudge through the second semester, they should not fear the wrath that winter may bring. According to Edwards, The Utility Labour Force will always be there to lend them aid under any conditions. “No matter how much or how long it snows, we will be out there to move it.”
What did you think about Jan. 24's snow storm?
Video by Courtney Mintenko