- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

After a 14-week hibernation, the District's street-sweeping fleet returned to work yesterday to begin cleaning up a winter's worth of trash.
Department of Public Works employee Paul Sneed, 53, drove a bright orange "Pelican" street-sweeper down Sherman Avenue toward Florida Avenue in Northwest.
Much of the road was populated by parked cars, since the street was not designated for cleaning yesterday. But Mr. Sneed came upon an open stretch of about 75 yards, and prepared to make a run. Sand, salt, mud and a large amount of trash, including a large piece of soaking wet cardboard, lined the curb.
"We haven't been out here for a while. [The streets] are real dirty," said Mr. Sneed. The cardboard boxing, he said, was no problem.
"Hubcaps, I can handle that. Tires though, I have to pick them up and put them on the side of the road," he said.
The first week of December through the middle of March is officially winter season for DPW, with policy not use street-sweepers. Since DPW can't operate street-sweepers in subfreezing temperatures or when there is snow on the ground, their street-cleaning sabbatical is one of simplicity.
"Instead of saying, 'This week we'll have the sweepers, and you will have to move your cars,' and then the next week, 'We won't and you don't,' it made a lot more sense to call it a season," said Mary Myers, DPW spokeswoman.
Also, the 329 DPW workers who clean streets are busy during the winter either plowing or doing other winter-related work.
But the trash piles up, angering some D.C. residents.
"I wish they'd clean it up because this is how you get rats in the city. I pay enough taxes for this stuff to be taken care of. It's really terrible. Look at it," said Frederick Spears, 37, who lives in the Shaw neighborhood where Mr. Reed was cleaning.
"They don't pick up the trash like they do in Montgomery County. There, they pick it up thoroughly," said Mr. Spears.
Levon Donaldson, 65, another Shaw resident, said DPW's "Pelican" street-sweepers do a good job cleaning streets. His only complaint was that when the vehicle's trash-hoppers get full, sometimes the drivers don't empty them.
"They leave trash," Mr. Donaldson said. He also said that he had seen two smaller street-sweepers, designed to reach alleys and in between cars, riding up and down Sherman Avenue for more than three hours.
"They were just profiling," he said.
DPW does not clean every street in the city, focusing instead on cleaning a selected 4,000 lane-miles each month it's a strategy designed to maximize limited funds and manpower in the department.
"Anything that's outside the core of the city, we don't do," said Ms. Myers. Additionally, in any residential area, the city must have a form signed by 75 percent of a street's residents agreeing to the parking restrictions before they can decide to make it a street-cleaning area.
Ms. Myers said, "By Saturday, all the routes that are supposed to be run will have been run one time."
DPW operates 32 "Pelican" street-sweepers, 30 of which are operational, along with 27 alley-cleaners and 27 minivacs. The "Pelican" is a three-wheel vehicle with brushes on each side and one in the back, all of which push trash onto a conveyor belt that takes it to the 1-ton capacity trash-hopper on the front of the truck. The "Pelican" weighs 14 tons and is 16 feet long.
The motor and brushes on the Pelican generate a lot of noise, but Mr. Reed said, "You get used to it."
In fact, Mr. Reed said that the various noises the "Pelican" makes help him determine whether the engine is running OK and whether his brushes are positioned correctly.
"Everything I try to do is associated with certain sounds. That's my strength," he said.

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