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May. 12, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The end of the spring semester means that most of the faculty and staff of Marshall University will be slowing down.

However, this is a very busy time for the Marshall Physical Plant. Employing a staff of 141 people the Physical Plant takes care of 151 acres of campus as well 39 academic and administrative buildings. These duties include custodial work, grounds keeping and maintenance. Their job is to keep the University looking its best.

"At the grounds department we are trying to get everything ready for graduation," said Dale Osburn, associate director of the Physical Plant. "We plant all the flowers and mulch all the flowerbeds before graduation. A lot of this is done after campus after hours. After the school day is done we come in around 4 or 5 p.m. and work until dark."

First on the list of projects for this summer is a campus beautification program.

"We will be going in and looking at more perennial plants so we can lessen the cost of grounds keeping each year," Osburn said. "Because our budget has been decreased we have been forced to re-invent how me make the campus look good."

Osburn said Mike Farley has been hired to serve as manager over the grounds department and comes with years of experience.

"Farley is coming in with a lot of new ideas for our planting areas," said Mark Cutlip, director of the Physical Plant. "His focus is currently on putting in an area that is self sustaining. It will have a different color at different times of the year and it will save money because there will not be a lot of replanting."

Summer brings lots of visitors to campus so it is time when it needs to look its best.

"We try to keep the University looking it's best at all times," Cutlip said. "We have a lot of high school visits in the summer, and a lot of people just want to do a drive by and see what the campus looks like. The nicer you have it look and the more people say 'I want to come here.' Then we've done our job."

In addition to grounds work the Physical Plant oversees much day-to-day maintenance including plumbing, painting and custodial work.

"The summertime is when we go back into our buildings then strip and wax the floors, " Cutlip said. "We are doing a good-sized interior renovation in Corbly Hall. We do a lot of interior painting in classrooms as we can work around the schedule much better. We also change light bulbs and ballasts. We will also be installing motion sensor switches in some classrooms. We will start prep work this summer to establish five to 10 smart classrooms over the winter break. It takes a lot of advanced planning and work with our IT department. There is a lot infrastructure work with ordering new furniture and installing monitors, wiring, etc."

The Physical Plant also works with the Facilities Planning and Management department which oversees construction on new projects like the Engineering building on 3rd Avenue and the new soccer field.

"We will be working on the Henderson Center Bridge that goes to the parking garage and replacing the steps," Osburn said. "We will be painting the bridge area at Smith Hall. At Jenkins Hall we will be painting the floors and walls. We will be pressure washing and water proofing the new Marshall brick signs. We will be repainting the two back dormers in Old Main, and in Jenkins Hall we will install new step treads to the basement. We are working on the ceiling in the Science Building and updating their sprinkler system."