Some residents in Reading’s Oakbrook, Millmont and Wyomissing Park neighborhoods believe the streets could be a little bit cleaner.
City Council heard from members of the 18th Wonder Improvement Association on a proposed public-private partnership street sweeper program at council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday night.
“Today we respectfully ask the City Council of Reading to invest in a 12-month pilot program,” said Tom Masano Jr., board member of the 18th Wonder.
The 18th Wonder comprises the Millmont, Oakbrook and Wyomissing Park neighborhoods and consists of 32 miles of roadways, 64 miles when you have to sweep both sides of the street.
Members from the 18th Wonder proposed a 12-month pilot program that would have a street sweeper clean the streets throughout the 18th Wonder, five days a week, including nights and weekends.
The estimated cost to run a diesel street sweeper and its associated costs was $259,500 or an electric street sweeper and its associated costs for $379,500, Masano said. The cost of the driver was included in the estimated costs, Masano said.
The presentation cited a 2020 study from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful that concluded cities spend about four times as much to remove litter and dumped material as they do to prevent it from being generated in the first place.
“The litter and dumping issue remains in effect throughout the 18th Ward,” said Sarah Maraella, a graduate assistant of communications at Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute and consultant to the 18th Wonder. “Ultimately, devaluing the community’s overall investment in solving these issues. Therefore we want to move forward with a more preventive approach through this project.”
The 2020 study pointed out that 89% of Reading’s more than $2 million in expenditures related to litter and illegal dumping are allocated to cleanup, as opposed to more proactive measures aimed at prevention.
“The problem of litter is an ongoing problem where we are spending 89% of our efforts on abatement which has been proven to be ineffective,” said Katie Hestor, graduate assistant of strategy at the O’Pake Institute and an 18th Wonder consultant. “Today we present to you a more preventive measure of street sweeping.”
Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. understands the need for street sweepers but believes they are not a preventive measure.
“We’ve led people to believe that it’s our job to pick up their trash,” he said. “I’ve seen it work against us. But I think we’ve created a lot of problems as well. Our street-sweeping program is a cover up for our inability to enforce keeping things clean.”
Accountability and oversight will be important, Masano said.
“To that end, I will be personally involved in this project,” he said.
Weekly meetings would be held at his business, Tom Masano Auto Park, where the amount of litter collected, route efficiency, feedback and costs would be discussed.
“My personal cellphone will be emblazoned in 3-foot high digits on the side of the sweeper,” Masano said.
While the 18th Wonder is hoping for the pilot program to be approved, Hestor said the goal was for a fully funded program.
“We believe the way to do that is through a public-private partnership,” Hestor said.
Members would reach out to the business community to offer shares in the project at $5,000 per share with a goal of $100,000 of private investment, she said.
Masano already pledged $10,000 to the project, Hestor said.
Councilwoman Melissa Ventura asked if the request was being made because the 18th Ward does not have regular street sweeping like the rest of the city or if it would be in addition to regular street sweeping.
The city has a street sweeper in the 18th Ward every Wednesday, Masano said.
“What we’re proposing is total saturation,” he said. “Have the street sweeper running five days a week, eight hours a day. I feel that is the only way we are really going to take care of the trash issue.”
Council was hesitant to approve a pilot program, but was not ready to throw the idea in the wastebasket.
The only way he would support the pilot program, Waltman said, is if Mayor Eddie Moran’s team supports it.
Managing Director Abraham Amoros said the administration would review the proposal.
“We will take this request internally and deliberate on it just like every single one,” he said. “We will certainly let you know what we think. We think some of the questions raised are legitimate, very valid.”
Source: Berkshire mont