By John Filonow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Gary McCray has been a street sweeper operator for the city of Stillwater for 29 years.
And in his free time, he works.
McCray has also been a farmer for 20 years. But he would like to retire in a few years and own his own business.
David Higgins, director of waste management and fleet, said some residents have asked what a street sweeper actually does. People sometimes think their street was clean to begin with, he said.
According to information provided by the city, street sweepers not only clean streets, but reduce health hazards related to dust and help keep trash in the streets from becoming a refuge for insects and rodents.
“If you could see those trucks dump the sand and rubble when they’re done, those trucks are full,” Higgins said.
McCray said he learned the trade from Walt Schneider.
Since 1983, when he began working for the city, McCray has seen Stillwater grow, with more streets, more work to do and better equipment, he said.
McCray said the Swartz 7000 regenerative air sweeper he operates uses a closed loop cyclonic effect to clean streets.
Higgins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality requires the city to limit the negative impact on storm water quality.
Regular sweeping improves that by helping to prevent accumulation of debris and reducing dirt which gets into streams, lakes, ponds and other waterways, according to the city’s website.
The city has three street sweepers, one regenerative air sweeper and two mechanical broom sweepers. One broom sweeper is a backup, Higgins said.
According to information provided by Stillwater Waste Management, the city’s street sweepers swept 1,476 lane miles and collected 184 cubic yards of debris in October.
“In a mechanical, as the machine drives down the curbline, the gutter broom on the side of the machine will flip the debris in toward the middle of the machine to the divider that’s in the middle, and as you drive along it gets to the rear broom that will pick up the debris which throws it up on a conveyer that rides up and dumps into the hopper,” said Chris Knight, superintendent of waste management.
“The air machine is basically the same thing but doesn’t have a rear broom and the gutter broom will take it to the middle where it is sucked up like a vacuum,” he said.
Every street gets swept every 45 to 60 days, Higgins said.
“Your major thoroughfares, they do get swept more, the way our system is designed, (where) we’re sweeping the areas. It’s kind of difficult to do so on your trash days because all your polycarts sit out on the street, so we take advantage of that and we sweep the major thoroughfares on those days,” Knight said.
Knight said they have a colored map which identifies which areas get swept on what days.
It’s the same map they use for the department’s trash collection days, he said. The map is available on the city’s website, stillwater.org. If residents move their cars off the streets those days, the street sweeping can be more effective, Knight said.
“That made us more efficient, and we’re always looking for something to make us more efficient,” Knight said.
Knight said the street sweepers are more efficient now because one follows the other. He said the mechanical broom sweeper goes first, picking up leaves, branches and other debris.
“It used to (be) one would start on one end of town and the other would start on the other end of town, and they would come to the middle,” Knight said.
McCray is nearing retirement age, and said he’s good at what he does, but he would like to retire “as soon as possible,” he said with a smile.
“That man knows everything there is to know about street sweeping,” Knight said.