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He handles sweeper role on city team
Ken Matthews is shown with one of the citys new $196,000 green street sweepers paid for 100 percent with a federal grant. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Ken Matthews spends his days in the gutter.

He’s one of two Manteca municipal workers - the other is Todd Compton - who clean more than 300 miles of Manteca streets.

Matthews and Compton operate street sweepers that run through neighborhoods twice a month and commercial areas once a week.

During the last two weeks they swept up 49 tons of debris. A two-week take during the late fall and winter when leaves are falling is often three times more in terms of the volume of debris swept up.

The goal isn’t simply to keep streets looking as clean as possible. Much of that debris would end up in the city’s storm drainage system. It would reduce the system capacity and would more than likely trigger flooding.

Plus the more debris they prevent from entering the storm drain system and being eventually dumped it into the Delta, the less likely federal authorities will follow through on a proposal to require storm run-off water to be treated at a wastewater plant. Such a requirement would add significantly to municipal sewer bills.

“I love the job,” Matthews said. “You get to see things around town. It is never the same twice.”

Some may thing it is a boring job driving around at speeds that never top 7 mph while cleaning streets. Matthews said it is anything but boring.

“You’re constantly checking your mirrors and making sure you don’t miss anything,” he said.

Also, he is constantly adjusting brushes as the pavement slope is always changing.

The sweepers start work by 4 a.m. and usually have completed commercial cleaning long before businesses open.

Matthews will dump his collection hopper twice a day this time of year. Between the two sweepers, it takes just two days to fill the city’s largest trash container that is then loaded on a truck and taken to the landfill to be buried.

Often operators will find interesting things when they go to dump their sweepings.

“The other day I had a toad starting at me when I went to dump the hopper,” Matthews said who has 28 years under his belt sweeping city streets.

The steel brushes used to sweep the streets are replaced every six days.

Starting this week, the city will have two new street sweepers in operation.

They are much “greener” than the ones they are replacing. Not only do the sweepers contain recyclable plastics in the manufacturer of the vehicle plus utilize reprocessed polyethylene for abrasion liners, the diesel engine produces significantly less particle matter to reduce greenhouse gases. They also have better fuel economy and use the least amount of water for dust control compared to other sweepers.

Manteca took advantage of federal grants to cover 100 percent of the cost of the two sweepers that cost $196,000 apiece. That means the city will avoid spending $380,000 in local funds over the next two to four years to replace the sweepers they had been using to meet clean air mandates.

Sweepers typically will last 10 years in most cities. But Matthews credits the city’s vehicle maintenance crews for taking such good care that city vehicles typically have higher than expected life expectancies. He’s been driving the same sweeper for 11 years. It has 94,000 miles on it. The sweeper will know be relegated to back-up status.

“People do appreciate having their street swept,” Matthews said.

The cleanliness of streets in other cities is something that Mathews always finds himself checking out.

“It drives my wife nuts,” Matthews said.

Matthews noted that Tracy - where he lived before moving to Manteca decades ago - “has much dirtier streets.”

“It’s been that way since they went with a private company,” Matthews noted.