New $90,000 street sweeper to jump-start campus cleanup

Caitlin Saniga

Anyone walking around campus after 11 p.m. on a Sunday or Monday might notice a new, unique-looking vehicle moving along sidewalks at a crawl of 6 mph.

This $90,000 street sweeper is the grounds department’s newest addition to its family of machinery.

“We really did our homework,” grounds manager Heather White said. “When you spend $90,000 of the university’s money, you want to make sure you have the right piece of equipment for what you want it to do.”

Equipment operators from the grounds department tested three models of street sweepers before choosing the biggest, most expensive one — the Nilfisk RS 1300. They also checked with mechanics to make sure maintenance and repairs would be easy.

The model they chose looks like a giant, four-wheeled vacuum cleaner with three circular spinning brooms at the front and a thick hose that sucks up debris and shoots it into a 46-cubic-foot container in the back. One of the circular brooms moves independently, allowing for cleanup in hard-to-reach areas like under benches.

The sweeper also features infrared rearview cameras, heating and air conditioning inside the cab, a power washer attachment and a flashing beacon light on the roof.

It will be used for cleaning campus streets as well as the University Esplanade and other decoratively stamped sidewalks.

“The challenge is the cigarette butts,” White said. “They get wedged in the cracks, and they’re difficult to get out.”

Before, nothing was done on a regular basis to clean the sidewalks. At times, community service workers picked up litter. Groundskeepers used leaf-blowers to lift cigarette butts from the cracks and then collected them, but this was not routine.

Campus street cleaning was also a problem. Because of cost, the streets were only cleaned twice a year, once in May and again in August, White said. The grounds department had to pay the city of Kent to do the job.

During the eight months that followed August, there wasn’t a street-cleaning routine.

“Because we haven’t done anything in so long on the streets, I think it’s going to take quite a while to catch up,” White said.

Mike DeLeone, a higher-rank equipment operator, test-drove the street sweeper about a month ago, and he said it was easy to use. However, in order to get the best results, he said, it’s best to sweep slowly.

“It picked up little rocks in the cracks of the sidewalks,” DeLeone said. “The power-washer even took gum off the sidewalk.”

Only equipment operators, who have commercial driver’s licenses, can use the sweeper. A small group of equipment operators were trained to use the sweeper Friday.

“When we’re spending this kind of money for a machine, we want very experienced and trained people using it,” White said.

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Caitlin Saniga at [email protected].