News and views from Facilities: November 2012

This month’s focus is on our upcoming winter season and what you can expect during snow and icy conditions. We explain what our process is and what we consider when making recommendations and decisions, but it’s important for everyone to remember that safety is a personal choice! We have policies that accommodate personal concerns during inclement weather, and actions to keep campus open are not intended to supersede your own judgment.

As always, if you are interested in receiving these notes personally rather than through Western Today, please email us ( and we will place you on the distribution list.


As the winter weather season approaches, I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of what happens before, during and after snow events, and what to expect during those times.

As a winter storm approaches, Facilities Management spends a lot of time monitoring various weather forecasts as we try to put together a “best guess” about how the storm will affect the Western campus. We are aware of the fact that employees and students commute from a variety of locations in Whatcom and Skagit counties, but we also have to make sure the 4,000 or so students who live on campus have continued access to dining services and other key facilities.

Above all, SAFETY is the top priority. Is the campus reasonably safe for students and staff to navigate? Can the Facilities Management crews reasonably expect to keep up with the conditions expected (i.e. snow, ice, freezing conditions)? Is there enough time to clear sidewalks and parking areas before everyone gets to campus? For commuters, weather conditions in Whatcom and Skagit counties may be worse or better than in Bellingham. Western stresses that individuals must make their own decisions on whether to travel to Western during bad weather based on a specific assessment of their own safety and circumstances.

Day before:

  • If the prognosis is for freezing temperatures and icy conditions, the Grounds Maintenance staff will pre-treat key areas with ice melt to mitigate the expected iciness.
  • If the forecast is nearly certain for snow during the night, we will direct certain staff to come in early the next day to start snow removal.
  • During the night, the University Police Department monitors conditions and asks for call-outs if needed.

Day of a storm:

  • The Outdoor Maintenance supervisor and Facilities Management Director arrive on campus around 5 a.m.
  • Based on current ice and snow conditions as well as the weather forecasts, the FM director recommends to the Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs (VPBFA) a course of action – whether to remain open or close, or to have a delayed opening. The VPBFA makes a recommendation to the President, who then makes a final decision. Our goal is to have a status message out by 6 AM.
  • Throughout the day, conditions are monitored in case there is a need to change the status of the university. Campus members who encounter what they consider unsafe conditions are encouraged to report the location and description to Facilities Management Work Control at 360-650-3420.

Other considerations:

Even if campus is open during snowy weather, campus conditions are not likely to be what everyone would consider “normal”. The outdoor maintenance crew will focus on routes to and from residence halls to dining halls, routes to and from academic buildings, and access to handicapped entrances. That means that individual short-cuts and secondary pathways may not be cleared unless or until the work load permits.

Facilities Management also stays in touch with organizers of special events to determine what actions may be needed to keep those events running. For example, a scheduled basketball game at Carver Gym may mean our snow removal crews come in on a weekend. On the other hand, if no major activities are scheduled, our efforts may be minimized during non-core hours.

For additional information on our snow removal procedures, please access the plan online.


There are more than 3.2 million square feet of buildings on campus.
Based on total areas covered, there are between 1.8 million and 2.0 million bricks on campus!


Last spring, we announced a reward for information leading to the successful prosecution or discipline of graffiti artists around campus. For a short period of time, graffiti incidents went down on campus, but unfortunately, we ended the year with essentially the same level of effort expended – nearly 410 hours were assigned to remove graffiti on academic buildings and our outdoor sculptures. The value of that effort, including materials, was just over $29,000!

Just in case you do happen to come across graffiti, please contact the work control center to report the “location” and any other information that will help FM find the graffiti as quick as possible.

Work Control Center

  • Email:
  • Call: (360) 650-3420

If you catch someone in the act, please contact UPD!

  • Call: (360) 650-3555
  • Email:


What's the problem with motor oil?

Oil does not dissolve in water. It lasts a long time and sticks to everything from beach sand to bird feathers. Oil and other petroleum products are toxic to people, wildlife and plants. One pint of oil can make a slick larger than a football field. Oil that leaks from our cars onto roads and driveways is washed into storm drains, and then usually flows directly to a lake or stream. Used motor oil is the largest single source of oil pollution in our lakes, streams and rivers. Americans improperly dispose of 200 million gallons of used oil each year and a sizeable portion reaches our waters.
Drips don’t have to be a problem.

What will you do to help?

  • Maintain your car.
  • Stop drips. Check for oil leaks regularly and fix them promptly.
  • Use ground cloths or drip pans beneath your vehicle if you have leaks or are doing engine work. Clean up spills immediately.
  • Collect all used oil in containers with tight fitting lids. Do not mix different engine fluids.
  • Never dispose of oil or other engine fluids down the storm drain, on the ground or into a ditch.

You can find lots more information about Western’s storm water management program online.


Points of contact for these and other FDCB projects can be found at their web link.

Administrative Services Center building

Public Works Project #648 Central Machine Room Infrastructure Improvements was recently completed in the Administrative Services Building. The Office of Facilities Development and Capital Budget thanks all users and occupants for your patience and flexibility this summer/fall when your daily routines may have been impacted by the construction activities.

Please let us know if you have ideas on how we can better keep you informed about public works projects. For in-house projects, submit ideas to the Facilities Management Work Control Center at 650-3420. We are always looking for ways to improve our communication efforts.

Carver renovation

As part of the site analysis for the Carver Academic Renovation Project, geotechnical engineers will take selective soil borings around Carver Gym on Saturday, Dec. 1. The majority of the drillings will be done on the east and south sides of the gym where new structures will be located as part of the renovation. Expect some noise and possible redirection of pedestrian traffic around the drilling equipment.

Contact Sherrie Montgomery with questions at or at 360-650-6519.