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On the road with...

Sunnyside's street sweeper

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Randy Peters, an employee of the Public Works department, must keep his concentration when he's cleaning the streets of Sunnyside. He is always on the lookout for motorists and pedestrians.

Have you ever woken up to six inches of snow? It can be a pain, especially if you are running late for work. You run out to your car, scrape the snow and ice off your windshield, checking the clock constantly and reminding yourself you have to get on the road and dreading it all the same.

When you finally get the snow and ice removed from your windshield and maneuver your car through the snow drifts in your driveway, you hit the road and it's blissfully cleared of snow. Like magic.

Who do you thank for that kind gesture?

If you live in Sunnyside, you thank the Public Works Street Department crew.

They're the ones who wake up early in the morning, warm up the snow plows, and plow our roads while we are still sleeping.

Considering there is 55 miles of streets (one way) in Sunnyside, it's no easy task to get our streets driveable after a heavy snowfall.

Along with clearing the roads of snow, the crew also dusts the roads with gravel to give motorists more traction. Unfortunately, gravel, unlike snow, does not melt.

When the snow has melted and the streets are littered with gravel, this must be cleared up too.

And that's where Randy Peters enters the story. Peters has been an employee with the Public Works Street Department for six years now.

A first impression of Peters is a friendly guy who really cares about his job. You can tell he likes what he does. Before he came to work at the street department, Peters worked on a farm. He prefers the street department.

"You're always doing something different every day," he explained. "I get more time off with the family than I did working on the farm."

Driving the street sweeper requires concentration and patience. Normal speed when sweeping the streets is between 3 and 5 mph. The dirtier the street, the slower you go.

Asked if he ever gets bored driving so slowly around the town's 55 miles of streets, he responded, "I'm too busy sweeping to get bored."

Not only does he have to watch out for cars but he has to make sure the brooms on the $160,000 machine aren't smashing into the sidewalk.

"Traffic and other cars are the biggest danger but kids cause problems too," he said. "They are so curious they want to get up close to check things out."

Although this is the busiest time of the year for street sweeping, Sunnyside's streets are swept on a regular basis throughout the year. The school's parking lots get cleaned and swept before the start of the school year, mostly as a community service.

"Most of the public is really appreciative," Peters said. "That makes it nice. A lot of times we'll sweep a street and people will come out and offer us a pop or coffee."

Peters estimates between 600 and 700 tons of dirt and garbage are swept off the streets of Sunnyside every year. The debris is dumped into a pile at the Public Works area. About every two years, when the pile is big enough, the debris is screened.

The garbage gets hauled to the dump but the leftover dirt and rock are used as filler for various projects the street department does throughout the year. Usually while repairing roads.

The street department employees are responsible for all aspects of maintaining Sunnyside's streets. They unplug storm drains, prune trees on the side of the road, fix street lights and replace street signs when they get old. General road repair is also their responsibility.

The street department has its own paving machine and takes care of all road repairs except for big jobs, which they contract out. They also do the seal coating every year on the streets. This involves laying down oil and rock to repair the damage from a hard winter.

"We try to get five or six miles of road resealed a year," Peters said.

Peters reckons the weather this year will do some damage to the roads in Sunnyside. He thinks all the moisture we've been having this year will cause havoc. "It should be a busy summer," he guessed.

So, if you see Peters driving around in his street sweeper, give him a honk and a wave of thanks. He's cleaning our streets.

"You never get them spotless," he said. "But one time through gets them pretty clean."

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