End of Season Blog….
See You In September
BCLS Snow and Ice Management
Snow and Ice Is Often a Challenge for Association Boards…
While spring has been upon us for most of February here in Central Virginia, let’s not forget that February can sometimes be a NIGHTMARE with varying temperatures and still the potential for snow if recipe for a storm was just right.
The key is preparedness, regardless of what time of the year it is. A well-developed snow and ice removal plan is essential to maintaining the safety, accessibility and financial stability of properties, while working to mitigate risks associated with weather conditions for residents and visitors. Despite the unpredictability of the weather in Central Virginia, Property managers must know how and when to build a comprehensive snow response plan, and how to select the most appropriate snow removal partner who can mobilize fleets, provide scalability on demand, and deliver well-trained crews under adverse conditions.
The most effective snow plans are proactively established well before the arrival of winter storms.
Who’s responsible; in most HOA communities the association is responsible for protecting residents from slips and falls and therefore, must be sure to keep areas clear of snow and ice. The homeowner’s association through the board, protect the safety and general welfare of the residents of the property. The HOA provides for the maintenance and operation of all common property in accordance with the governing documents. Compliance of snow and ice removal of walkways, sidewalks, driveways and common areas are found in maintenance responsibilities-obligations of the HOA in the association’s governing documents.
Because of this inherent liability, associations can be held responsible for residents’ winter-related injuries, so it is important for them to be on top of snow removal.
Hiring wisely, not all contractors are alike…
With the potential of a debilitating liability lawsuit hanging over their heads, building boards and associations should not skimp on quality snow removal. It is suggested that management companies be thorough in their search for the most capable snow removal professionals. Making inquiries such as the following to weed out incompatible candidates: “What size of properties can you best handle?”; “How much snow removal do you do?”; “How do you prepare your equipment for the snow season each year?”; ”Do you have a group of sub-contractors as back-up and how do you make sure that they are qualified?”; “What type of insurance do you require of your partners?”; “How would you recommend our property be serviced to ensure we are completely satisfied?”; “Who are some of your current clients? Do you have references?” and lastly, “How long have you been in business?” and so on…
In general, property management companies are responsible for contracting out seasonal upkeep work to landscaping and maintenance contractors, generally bidding the jobs out each year or so While many associations combine landscaping and snow removal contracts in order to leverage for good quality landscaping and snow removal services and for more competitive pricing, stand alone snow contracts are also suggested where contractor capabilities are limited. Here in Central Virginia, there are generally two different ways a building board or an association can choose to contract out for snow removal: a per-inch contract or per hour.
“A per-inch contract is structured in two-inch increments, each with a corresponding price whereas an hourly contract you simply pay a “fixed rate” for each truck, piece of equipment , material type and labor. While it is always important to consider factors such as projected season snowfall and lot size, the biggest deciding factor for associations is budgetary constraints. It is suggested that property managers work with contractors in a transparent fashion in order for the contractor to help boards meet there budgetary needs.
Snow removal experts use a variety of methods and equipment to keep property safe for businesses and condominiums. The most basic snow-cleaning tool, after the shovel and plow, is, of course, chemical ice melt. The oldest (and cheapest) variety, commonly known as ‘rock salt’ is actually calcium chloride, which is effective at melting ice—but unfortunately it also essentially melts concrete, penetrating into the pores of the pavement, heating up and splitting it apart. Misuse of calcium chloride during the winter means a potential for restorative maintenance during the other three seasons of the year. In transitional snow climates such as Central Virginia where temperatures and snow amounts vary greatly year to year, a blended CMA (calcium magnesium acetate) product often suffices as a suitable ice melting product and is more environmentally friendly than conventional salt and calcium products.
Keep in touch with proactive communication…
Whatever contract option an association settles on, it’s imperative for them to maintain an open line of communication with the snow removal contractor. Keep the residents aware of our snow removal procedures with aspects such as timing, priority clearings, how and when to clean the snow off of their cars and move it to an opened cleared space. Using “SNOW BULLETINS” is a very effective way for community managers to communicate with the homeowners and provide the best type of service in a shorter of a time frame. Having a plan that is well understood by both the community manager and the snow removal contractor is extremely important to insure complete satisfaction. Not having this plan mutually understood by the parties sets the stage for unmatched expectations as a result of over- or under-servicing the property.
The notification letter should also include information regarding any installation of snow markers at the onset of the snow season to prevent curb damage, contact information for 24-hour communication on the part of HOA manager and snow removal contractor, and lastly, a plan to locate equipment or materials on-site before the storm (for larger properties).
With the proper contractor in place, making it through the harsh winter without any slips or falls is doable and much aggravation is possible. Surviving the cruel yet sometime pleasant fluctuations of temperatures here in Central Virginia like the winter of 2016-2017, well, that’s another story.
Interested in learning more about our BCLS, LLC Snow & Ice Management Services?
Contact us at (804) 752-0052 or visit us online at BCSL Snow and Ice Management LLC.
We offer comprehensive commercial snow and ice management
for HOA’s, Apartment Homes and Multi-Family communities throughout all of Central Virginia