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Sweeper OK'd despite concerns over quality
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Contract Sweeping Services (CSS) of Stockton was given a year's contract Monday evening to sweep Ceres streets despite concerns about their quality of that service.

The Ceres City Council voted 4-0 to extend the current street sweeping contract until next October. But members also voiced the need to have a program in place by next year to measure how well they are sweeping.

Public Works Director Phil Scott said that based on calculations of speed, it's completely plausible that CSS gets the work done with one truck. He said the company can theoretically cover 360 miles per week.

Ceres streets are swept every other week, or 26 times a year. Annually the curb mileage swept equals about 6,800.

CSS lowered its rate from $14.94 per curb mile to $13.40 per curb mile, earlier this year.

Councilmen Ken Lane and Chris Vierra raised concerns about quality of service.

"I've heard no less than five complaints from residents about the current street sweeping services," said Vierra. "I don't know if that's normal or not normal. I just know there were a number of people that commented that service isn't as good as it was before."

Scott said complaints about service were greater when ABC Sweeping had the city contract. He also noted that city staff followed ABC around in June 2007 and saw 72 sweeping inadequacies. A similar check of CSS' sweeper last month produced only seven inadequacies, he said.

However, Vierra called for a more subjective way of monitoring quality.

"There's got to be something," said Vierra. "If I was the competitor I think I'd be having everybody in town dial up and file complaints against my competitor so the next time around I could say, 'Well there's 75 complaints he has.' There has to be something more to it and I don't know what the answer is."

Lane said he's heard complaints about CSS as well. "The service is in question," said Lane. "So how do we go about doing our audits to provide the type of services that we're looking for? I still have reservations about this particular vendor."

The councilman also said he's had to blow out the gutters the afternoon after the sweeper has gone by his house.

Scott said that part of the complaints about service stem from the fact that the city still has a leaf and limb program in which residents can store vegetation debris in the streets next to gutters. Often the street sweeper has to go around piles in the street. The city could eliminate the problem in the future, said Scott, by having residents use a third Toter for green waste like many cities already have.

Scott said the city makes spot checks on CSS every two weeks to see about speed of vehicles, quality of the sweep and if water is being used. He said the council could reduce the maximum speed of sweepers from 8 mph down to 6 or 7 mph to improve the sweep. He said the frequencies of sweeps could be increased. Scott indicated that there could be done job of coordinating the pick up of leaves and limbs before the street is swept.

Mayor Anthony Cannella scoffed at the notion that the city could enforce a lower vehicle speed on sweepers. He did, however, ask all councilmen and city staff to make a deliberate examination of how well of a job is being done.

"We'll pay attention to it," said Cannella. "I'm sure these folks want to keep the business so if there's a problem they'll respond to whatever complaints we have."