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Machine Picks Up Litter--and the Pace

July 29, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

It looks like a pint-sized street sweeper that jumped the curb. But cruising down the sidewalk is right where city officials want their newest vehicle to be.

The city bought the Clean Machine to keep its sidewalks and pedestrian spaces tidy, including spots downtown, at Main Beach and at Heisler Park.

Before, city work crews had to sweep and pick up trash by hand in those areas--and they can't collect as much as quickly as the machine. Mayor Steve Dicterow said keeping sidewalks clean is even more important in Laguna Beach than in other cities because of its reliance on tourist traffic.

Dicterow said the city took its cue from San Francisco, which has seven of the Scottish-made devices. It is the first of its kind in Orange County.

He said the machine's $25,000 price tag is a bargain when spread over its five-year life span and weighed against the time it saves city workers, who can now perform other tasks.

The device sweeps and vacuums everything in its path--including leaves, beer bottles and cigarette butts--and grinds them into dust the consistency of beach sand.

"Because this is a recreation town, at night it does get messy," said resident Anne Morris, who stopped on the sidewalk to watch city workers test-drive the Clean Machine recently.

"I think it's a real good idea, if it can save the employees time," she said. "I sure see people struggle down on the beach. Plus, it's cute."

The operator can either walk behind the diesel-powered, self-propelled machine or ride on a seat that extends from the back. And to alert oblivious pedestrians, the controller can push a button to emit a warning in a sleepy surfer-dude drawl, "Caution--sweeper approaching."

Officials said messages are also available in John Wayne's and Roddy McDowall's voices.

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