Workers weather the storm, beat the heat

Grounds Crew

By Randy Gonzales
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. - Whether it's cleaning up after a storm or withstanding the sweltering heat, members of Fort Hays State University's grounds department are on the job, keeping the campus in pristine condition.

"Just carry on, get the job done," said Gary Murphy, who was applying a fresh coat of paint on a crosswalk Monday morning.

Jerry Dreiling was helping Murphy turn the crosswalk bright gold in color - and tiger-striped --just in time for students to arrive on campus next month.

"We try to do these before school starts so they look good for the students in August," Dreiling said. "That means we're doing it when it's hot out."

Temperatures are forecasted to hover around the 100-degree mark all week, and workers take extra precautions to beat the heat. When it's really hot out, the workers are reminded to wear hats and use sunscreen. They come to work an hour early and leave an hour early, when conditions are the hottest.

"We're going to try to do as much as we can in the morning when it's cool," Dreiling said. "Just drink a lot of water. (The supervisors) take care of us, try to keep us inside when they can. It works out pretty good."

Dean Dreiling and Allen Rohr are grounds supervisors at FHSU. Dreiling looks after the south part of campus, while Rohr is in charge of the north end. But everybody was working together to clear the campus of fallen tree limbs after an early-morning storm last week.

"The minute a storm hits like that, we get to work," Dean Dreiling said. "Everybody pretty well knows to grab rakes. We'll get the dump trucks out, the Bobcats and tractors. Just start picking up limbs.

"We've all been here long enough that everybody knows what they're supposed to do," he added. "Grab a piece of equipment, and away we go."

In a matter of a few short hours, most of the debris was cleared away from the quad, making it hard to tell a storm had just passed through. Summer McDonald, a graduate student from Kirk, Colo., is in her second year working with the grounds department. She said the members of a tour group told her they couldn't believe how fast the quad was back to looking normal.

"They said, 'Oh wow, you guys are quick,' " McDonald said.

"It's just part of your job," Rohr said. "You do appreciate the ones who notice it."

Some minor cleanup after the storm is still to come.

"We're just finishing the cleanup this week, going to do some raking to get the small twigs," McDonald said. "Everything should be back to normal."

There are 13 full-time members of the grounds department at Fort Hays State and one part-time employee. In addition, there are about seven or eight student employees this year. Whether it's watering plants -- like McDonald was doing Monday -- or painting crosswalks or cleaning up after a storm, they are behind the scenes, making sure the campus looks its best.

"It's the dedication," Dean Dreiling said. "If something happens, they do it. You really don't have to tell them anything; they just take care of the job."

"They take pride in what they do and like everything to look good," he added. "They just have a lot of pride in the university."

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