Neighborhood cleanup doubles back to east Macon

City program covers five blocks in five weeks

jgaines@macon.comOctober 29, 2012 

“Y’all trick-or-treating?” Tomekia Denson asked the three Macon-Bibb County firefighters Monday as they walked up to her house on Fort Hill Street.

The group led by fire Lt. Larry Joiner carried plastic bags, but they weren’t asking for candy. Instead they were giving out safety information, part of Macon Mayor Robert Reichert’s Five by Five by Five cleanup program, which is back for a second year.

Along with the information packet, Joiner offered a home safety inspection.

“Sure, I’d love it,” Denson said.

The firefighters made sure both of her smoke detectors were working, then ran down a checklist: appliances, extension cords, fuse box, fire extinguisher and a few other items. Then Joiner asked if Denson had a fire-escape plan worked out for herself, her husband and two small children. Windows, she replied.

“I’m going out the nearest one that the fire’s not at,” Denson said.

What’s important, Joiner told her, is to have a designated meeting place outside, so family and firefighters can make sure everyone’s accounted for.

Advice from firefighters is only one aspect of the Five by Five by Five effort. Starting a year ago, city workers began doing intensive cleanups of five-block target areas for five weeks at a time, moving in sequence through the city’s five wards.

The first area was bounded by Fort Hill Street, Shurling Drive, and Maynard and Hall streets. City workers reported taking out nine tons of garbage, 50 old tires, painting more than 8,000 feet of curbs and 200 feet of crosswalks, putting up 52 new street signs and 22 signposts, plus work at the Rosa Jackson Center.

Now workers are back in an adjacent area, bordered by Shurling Drive, Fort Hill Street, Emery Highway, Second Street and Gray Highway. A variety of city agencies will be working there until Nov. 30.

Many of the physical improvements will be made by Public Works Department crews, but that can only be done on public property or right of way. Firefighters are painting house numbers on curbs, Macon police plan to introduce themselves to people in each household and code inspectors will follow workers looking for property-maintenance violations.

Fire Capt. Dewey Davis said firefighters will install smoke detectors in homes that need them and also will give out safety tips and contact information for the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency.

As eight firefighters went door-to-door on Denson’s block, another eight-person crew worked down Woolfolk Street with leaf-blowers. The jumpsuit-clad workers were inmates at the McEvers Probation Detention Center in Perry, said Georgia Department of Corrections officer Kenneth Jackson, a Byron resident.

Battling the day’s strong winds, they flushed leaves, dirt and trash from sidewalks and gutters.

“We’re also cutting some abandoned lots,” Jackson said. “We’re just trying to clean up, pick up trash.”

Wielding a stout blade on a stick to scrape dirt and grass from curbs, Jackson said the crew does similar work four days a week, wherever Public Works directs them to go.

Echoing the hopes of city officials in announcing the Five by Five by Five plan, he expressed hope that the improvements will inspire residents to work on their own homes and even nearby vacant properties.

“If the city’s got the manpower and the money, this is something that the city should be out here doing every day,” Jackson said.

Denson was delighted to learn cleanup crews were coming to her area. She’s lived in the neighborhood for a year and is active in Neighborhood Watch, but she hadn’t heard of the Five by Five by Five program.

“I love the neighborhood. I’m from south Macon, but I love east Macon,” Denson said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.

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