New sweeper cleaning up city

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

If you've thought the streets of Ironton have seemed a little cleaner lately, it's not your imagination. The city has a new street sweeper, which, despite some difficulties, is doing its best to keep the city spic-and-span.

Beautification of the downtown area is important, but the newest member of Ironton's clean-up crew was actually purchased in order to protect the river.

To keep with EPA standards concerning the amount of waste allowed to enter the water, the city has to keep its gutters as clean as possible, which John Haskins, Ironton's waste water treatment superintendent, said was difficult with the city's previous sweeper which had a tendency to be quite fickle.

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"For the past year-and-a-half or so we've had a 'hit-or-miss' street sweeper," Haskins said. "Which meant that it would work for a couple of days, then quit working for a few."

Since the middle of January, the city has been leasing a new street sweeper that is priced at $121,000. It's a vast improvement over the previous machine, not only because it works, but because it has the ability to travel along highways, providing direct access to the dump.

Currently, it is canvassing the downtown and residential areas in the early mornings, picking up all those soda cans and hamburger wrappers that somehow never made it to the trashcan.

Work has been somewhat slow, largely due to the chilly weather plaguing the area since the sweeper began operation. The sweeper is dependent on water, so if the temperature dips below the freezing point, the machine can't operate.

The progress is further hampered by parked cars, which Haskins said can often hide trash and grit which the sweepers have to return to pick up.

Despite the slow going, the new sweepers have made strides in the clean-up, especially apparent in a downtown that gets a little neater everyday.

Local businessman Tim Gearhart, owner of Tim's News and Novelties, has already seen what the sweeper can do, not only at his downtown business, but also near his residence.

"I've noticed a big difference downtown, it has shown great improvement," Gearhart said. "Even at my home, it has run for the first time in maybe 10 years. It's going to make a vast improvement downtown I think."

Gearhart has been enjoying the aesthetic benefits of the sweeper, and has high hopes for the boost it will provide to the whole of Ironton, should all go according to plan.

"I'm noticing a continued improvement of the whole condition," Gearhart said. "I think if it continues to run and they keep somebody on it then I think we're going to see a great improvement all over town, not just in the downtown."

In the coming months, Haskins hopes to have the bulk of the trash and grit disposed of, so he can set up a regular cleaning schedule. This may someday include posting signs to allow residents to know where and when to park to best facilitate the cleaning process.

According to Haskins, that's not the only way locals can assist their friendly neighborhood street sweeper. Making the same request that residents have been hearing since elementary school, Haskins hopes they will remember to put trash where it belongs.