The Clean Team, Liam Cooledge, left, and Devin Cyr, disinfect tables on Vallee Square. Cooledge sprays and wipes to clean each table, then Cyr gives them a dose of sanitizing spray. Chance Viles / American Journal

WESTBROOK— The Clean Team has taken on a more important role in its second year, aiding in the city’s COVID-19 response.

The Clean Team is made up of Liam Cooledge and Devin Cyr, two recent Westbrook High School graduates. The positions were created last year to pick up litter downtown, but this summer the team’s primary focus has been sanitizing downtown public areas.

“I think we make a difference, especially when we sanitize the public parks where a lot of kids are, it’s doing what we can to help prevent them from getting sick,” Cyr said.

The team works half-time Monday through Friday. Last year, a one-person team worked only two shifts a week, but the team and the hours were expanded this year specifically because of  COVID-19, Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson said.

The Clean Team’s work starts with sanitizing playgrounds early before children arrive. Using general cleaning supplies and paper towels and then large bottle of disinfectant spray, they wipe down all playground equipment.

“We do that three times a day, and we also spray down the tables at Saccarappa Park, the city-owned tables on Vallee Square and along the River Walk,” Cooledge said. “We clean and sanitize the basketball courts (at the Warren Outdoor Recreation area), Riverbank Park and the skate park as well.”

Most of the tables they sanitize were recently installed to help expand downtown businesses’ outdoor seating areas to meet social distancing requirements.

“We are appreciative of their work downtown. I know a lot of people are coming here now, as opposed to Portland, for our River Walk,” said Meg Minervino, owner of Legend’s Rest Taproom. “It’s working for people around here.”  

The Clean Team: Devin Cyr, left,and Liam Cooledge with Public Works Operations Manager Arty Ledoux. Chance Viles / American Journal

In between their cleaning and sanitizing, the Clean Team picks up trash, such as cigarette butts, food wrappers and food, from downtown sidewalks and parks.

“Going through downtown we will fill up a few bags, and we fill up a lot over at the basketball courts,” Cyr said.

Cooledge and Cyr like that their jobs let them be outside during the summer days and gives them evenings off.  They also appreciate the thanks that they have been surprised to receive.

“Cleaning the tables, people have stopped and thanked us, a lot of people have said that it needs to be done,” Cyr said.

“It’s a good start, and I appreciate what the mayor and city officials have done,” said James Tranchemontagne, co-owner and chef at The Frog and Turtle.

With the two team members leaving for college in the next two months, Public Works Operations Manager Arty Ledoux hopes to find replacements to work through October. He also wants to operate the program with two people working five shifts per week again next year.

Ledoux said he views the team as an extension of the department.

“When they go, we may have to do a lot of this work in house. It’s been a huge help having this team, and it’s making an impact in public health,” Ledoux said. “We’d like to keep this going.”

According to Ledoux and Stevenson, finding Clean Team members has been difficult. Last year they planned on hiring two members for multiple months, but only one person was hired for three weeks.

Funding also is uncertain. This summer the team is being paid with about $22,000 from a $70,000 CARES Act grant.

Last year, $6,000 was earmarked for the pilot program, but because of the way it turned out it didn’t use that much.

“We want this, and expect this to move forward every season. Now, we have to find a way to fund that,” Stevenson said. “Overall, it’s not a lot of dollars for something so beneficial to downtown.”

 

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