Craig city sweepers hit the streets
March 9, 2012
“This year is unusual. We started a lot earlier because of the way the winter was, but basically we like to start as soon as we can … once the snow starts clearing out.”
— Dwayne Gonzales, Craig road and bridge department equipment operator
Different people define spring's arrival in different ways.
For some, it's warm weather, longer days and melting snow. For others, it's the return of Sandhill Cranes, spawning rainbow trout in the Yampa River or opening day at Yampa Valley Golf Course.
But for employees with the City of Craig's road and bridge department, there is no surer sign of the coming thaw than the day they garage their snowplows to take the wheel behind one of the city's four mechanical street sweepers.
Dwayne Gonzales, equipment operator and an employee of the road & bridge department since 1998, was working Thursday near the Woodbury subdivision cleaning up sand, dirt and gravel winter left behind.
In his 14 years of driving a street sweeper, Gonzales could not remember another year when the sweepers were running the first week of March.
"This year is unusual," Gonzales said. "We started a lot earlier because of the way the winter was, but basically we like to start as soon as we can … once the snow starts clearing out."
The city's fleet includes four mechanical street sweepers, two wet and two dry, a suction sweeper for cleaning out manholes, and a sidewalk sweeper.
Sweeper Foreman Dan White said the diversity in the fleet allows the road and bridge department to clean streets almost year round.
In addition to regular summertime service, White said it's not uncommon to see Craig's two dry sweepers on the roads in between snowstorms.
Gonzales was operating a Johnston MX450, one of the city's wet sweepers, with co-worker Scott Shaffer on Thursday.
He believes his job is as much about safety as it is about beautifying city streets.
"We think (sweeping) is very important," Gonzales said. "It keeps people from sliding in the sand, reduces the amount of dust, and makes the town look nice."
The Johnston is a three-wheel sweeper featuring a 5.6 cubic yard rear hopper, payload capacity of 12,000 pounds, a 230-gallon water tank, a turning radius of 12.5 feet, and a top road speed of 25 miles per hour.
It is equipped with two round gutter brooms that sweep dirt under the truck where a pickup broom transfers roadside material onto a conveyor system.
Street sweepings then travel up the elevator and into the rear hopper.
Once a truck reaches its capacity, operators unload their hoppers into dump trucks for transport to the landfill, where sweepings are used as "cover" to keep trash from blowing away.
"Weather permitting, we're out here every day cleaning," White said. "Without our partnership with the landfill we'd have a tough time finding a place to put all of the stuff we pick up."