At Highlands, Winter A Never Ending Battle

Tom Gump and his fellow Highlands caretakers already have spread 30 to 40 tons of salt on the shopping development’s roads and parking areas this season.

Several 100-pound bags of salt also have been used to keep sidewalks safe for pedestrians – and there’s still plenty of winter left to battle.

”The last couple months have been hectic. Last winter was easy,” said Gump, a Bethlehem resident.

Gump and his crew, which includes six regular workers and two temporary people on break from college, typically start their days about 5 a.m.

The work can last until 7 or 8 p.m., depending on the amount of snowfall and how much drifting is occurring. They plow snow from the sites owned by the Ohio County Development Authority, such as the Power and Town center areas.

Some stand-alone businesses at the site hire private companies for snow removal, said Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart.

”It’s definitely a different winter up here. There’s non-stop wind. You have to keep reshoveling and resalting,” Gump said.

While most shops don’t open until later, Gump noted the early starting hour is necessary to clear parking spots and sidewalks for office workers.

”People at Highmark show up at 5:30 a.m. and TSG gets in early,” Gump said.

In addition to snow removal, Gump also is a construction worker at the site, building out the insides of structures. He said he is a concrete worker by trade.

Stewart noted this winter has been a particularly rough one for the Highlands workers. Blowing and drifting snow can make the task a tedious one. The OCDA has seven or eight pieces of larger snow removal equipment, in addition to a smaller machine with a blade for wider sidewalks.

”Some days it’s tough – everybody needs to be everywhere first,” he said. ”We attempt to get all the storefronts first, then push out to the sidewalks and then the first row of parking. … It’s a tough business. We don’t like that part at all.”