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Tue, March 19

City takes stance on downtown violations

PRESCOTT - In the wake of recent complaints about the condition of the Whiskey Row alley, city officials are taking a number of steps to clean up the area, including tougher enforcement of city trash laws.

Prescott Field Operations Manager Chad McDowell, who oversees the solid waste department, reported this week that the city has issued a handful of citations to Whiskey Row businesses that have violated the city code on maintenance around trash containers.

Those citations came after the city received criticism about the messy appearance of the recently improved alley behind downtown's historic Whiskey Row.

"It is definitely the responsibility of all of the business owners to clean up down there," McDowell said this week, adding that city code requires property owners to clean up around their trash bins. "I have cited four or five businesses already."

While allowing that the merchants have some responsibility, Dave Michelson, owner of The Palace Restaurant and Saloon on Whiskey Row, maintained this week that the city should take some steps of its own.

"I certainly agree that the business owners should do their part," Michelson said. "But I think the city needs to do a better job in the alley, too."

Michelson noted that the compactors in the alley are sometimes full, and Whiskey Row employees have nowhere to put their trash. "Most of the time, if there is trash sitting out, it's because the Dumpsters are full," he said. "I think everyone should be responsible."

McDowell said the problem stems in part from misuse of the new trash compactors that the city installed in an attempt to keep the high-traffic alley cleaner.

Each of the two compactors holds about 18 yards of garbage, when compacted properly.

After the installation, McDowell said, "We showed all of the businesses how to operate the compactors." As part of the training, the city provided the businesses with the keys necessary for the operation.

But McDowell says Whiskey Row employees still regularly either fail to take the 20 or 30 seconds to cycle the compactor, or have problems with the keys.

That has resulted in trash piling up outside or on top of the compactors, McDowell said.

The violators are usually fairly easy to spot, he added. In one case, for instance, he said a restaurant employee dragged a bagful of grease and other garbage from the back door of the establishment and left it by the compactor.

"We followed the trail of grease right to the door (of the offending restaurant)," McDowell said. Receipts in the trash also sometimes help to identify the violators.

Along with its stricter enforcement, McDowell said the city also is taking a more "proactive approach" by conducting twice-daily pickups at the trash compactors. Early Friday morning, the city also had a crew in to pressure-wash the entire alley.

In addition, Administrative Services Director Mic Fenech said the city is looking into the purchase of a sweeper/scrubber that would allow regular washing of not only the alley, but the downtown sidewalks and the parking garage as well.

Fenech and McDowell noted that they hope to get budget approval for the approximately $80,000 purchase in the upcoming 2007/2008 budget deliberations.

City departments will be submitting a "decision package" for the equipment and additional staff to operate it, Fenech said. But until the expenditures actually make it in the budget, he said, "these are just wishes right now."

Meanwhile, McDowell said the city would continue its efforts to get the businesses to take a more active role. His department recently sent out letters, and he conducted a meeting with several of the businesses.

The Whiskey Row alley is not the only downtown area with similar problems. McDowell said he also has issued citations in the alley behind the Bashford Courts on Gurley Street.

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