Paso Robles restores street sweeping as finances continue to improve

A sweeping of the city’s streets — to some it may appear to be a typical, no-frills city service. But in Paso Robles, it’s a sign of economic recovery.

This month, the City Council authorized a one-year, $63,250 contract to restore a partial street-sweeping service citywide.

The move comes after street cleaning ceased in 2008 during recession-era cutbacks over the last six years that also resulted in a reduction of other services such as those to maintenance, recreation and police patrols.

Once city finances started showing signs of recovery last year, the City Council pledged to bring some of those services back with a focus on restoring maintenance services, public safety and economic development.

Those concepts have since materialized into spending money on training firefighters, replacing two fire engines, hiring two new police patrol officers, starting up a drug and gang team at the Police Department, adding an additional K-9 unit, hiring five maintenance workers and replacing the library’s roof, among other additions. And now, street sweeping.

Resident Christopher Austin thinks returning a sweeper to city streets is a good idea but only in the city’s commercial areas.

Every Monday, he scoops up the curbside litter — everything from cups to napkins to bottle caps — around his mortgage business on the 1400 block of Spring Street.

“We rely on tourism as a major part of our city revenue to continue improvements,” he said.

Other residents told The Tribune that they’d rather see the money spent on fixing the city’s roads — a hot-button issue that was at the forefront of the city’s 2012 election and culminated in a voter-approved sales tax increase for road repairs.

“I'd like to see a restoration of the streets themselves as in paving,” Paso Robles resident Bret Harrison said. “I think all of us who live here can name 20 streets we'd rather see paved than swept.”

Work on the roads, with money from the sales tax increase, began this summer. The fixes, which started on Country Club Drive, will fan out to other roadways in a preset schedule that stretches over the next five years.

That work is separate from the money used in the city’s current service restoration efforts, which is funded from growth in property tax, bed tax from hotels, and other fees charged to the public.

Once the contract with SP Maintenance Services of Arroyo Grande gets a second reading by the City Council in August or September, the street sweeper will clean residential streets once every eight weeks; collector streets once per quarter; downtown core streets once per month; and city-owned parking lots once per month, according to the city.

“It's a very basic service,” said Doug Monn, the city’s public works director. It was also cheaper to outsource the service than hire two new city employees to do it in-house, he said.