Grounds crew at UPHS – Marquette kept busy with winter snowfall

Mark Augenstein is one of three people responsible for clearing the snow at UPHS – Marquette. Mark Aldrich and Joe Racine are the others.

MARQUETTE — Snow maintenance at UP Health System — Marquette includes more than 800,000 square feet at the current hospital and over 560,000 square feet at the new facility. Maintaining clear and safe passage for employees and patients is the work of just three people: Mark Aldrich, Mark Augenstein and Joe Racine. 

“It’s all about keeping people safe. The patients and employees are our No. 1 priority,” Augenstein said. “Older people with a walker can’t go through a foot of snow, so we make sure everyone can get in and out of where they need to go.”

Normal hours for the grounds crew typically spans from 7:30 am – 3:30 pm, but this winter’s abnormal amount of snow has forced the group to put in extra hours. Depending on the amount of snow, the crew can get called in to work between 4 – 4:30 am and work as late as 5 – 6 pm. 

“We have a policy here at the hospital that the night maintenance guys calls us if there are two inches of snow or more, or ice, then we get called in,” Augenstein said. “Seven days a week, it doesn’t matter when.”

The staff has two trucks with plows and a loader that can hold six bags of salt to spread on sidewalks and parking lots. The group also will toss salt by hand to the areas the loader can’t get to. Every entrance and exit is hand-shoveled and hand-salted. Each of the three crew members have their own paths they take at each hospital, and it’s not uncommon to repeat a lap after completing one. 

“It’s nonstop,” Augenstein said. “When it’s snowing, you’re doing your rounds and sometimes you get back to where you started and it’s buried again.

“We have to give it all out every day. We know what we have to do and we each have our priorities.”

Typically the crew starts with clearing the parking ramp to ensure people can get their vehicles in and out to start the day. The staff also maintains the parking ramp at the new hospital along with keeping entrances and doors accessible there as well. 

If someone gets stuck, the crew can assist you by shoveling out or salting, but the group is not permitted to push a vehicle out due to an injury sustained a worker sustained while giving a push out of the snow. 

Still, Mark and the rest of the crew still manage to get a workout in each time a snowstorm hits. this past fall, Mark weighed 205 pounds; that number is now down to 179 thanks to the amount of exercise he’s put in ensuring UPHS – Marquette remains accessible despite the inclement weather. 

“It’s been busy, but we’ve been keeping up with it,” he said. “We know what we’re doing and we get a lot of compliments and we appreciate that, we truly do. 

“We also have an extra shovel for anyone who really likes shoveling.”

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