Maintenance Purple Shirts Keep Downtown Tidy

March 26, 2015

Colleen Lisciandrello hits the streets early in the morning to get things in shape for each day.

Colleen Lisciandrello hits the streets early in the morning to get things in shape for each day.

by Brad Poole

Things pop up on the streets of Downtown, and Rosemary Ramirez deals with a lot of them.

As a Downtown Tucson Partnership maintenance ambassador, she dons a purple shirt daily and circulates around Downtown in a golf cart or on foot, snatching up cigarette butts, pizza boxes and any other trash inconsiderate folks leave behind.

She and the rest of the maintenance crew also scrub graffiti and scrape stickers, pull weeds, water plants, repair benches and planters and tackle any one of a hundred other tasks that keep Downtown looking good and working smoothly.

Residents, merchants, and folks who work Downtown – and anyone who visits Downtown – rely on them to keep things tidy, and they meet the task.

Graffiti is a constant problem. Taggers frequently hit pretty much anywhere there is a flat surface for spray paint.

Maintenance golf carts like this one are a common sight Downtown.

Maintenance golf carts like this one are a common sight Downtown.

“Ugh. Graffiti,” said Ramirez, who has been a Purple Shirt for four years. “We get it on signs. Underpasses are good for it … and it’s the same people, the same taggers.”

The maintenance workers have actually caught taggers in the act before, brazenly spraying in broad daylight. The ran when they were interrupted, Ramirez said.

They use a paint remover spray, which Ramirez says works just fine, to nix most of it. The city is called for any graffiti the Partnership staff can’t handle.

Plants are another constant maintenance task. The staff is responsible for everything from the curb to storefronts, and that includes more than 100 barrel planters, and other ones besides.

“There are 1,000 plants at least,” said Russ Stone, the Partnership Maintenance Manager.

Maintenance Ambassador Rosemary Ramirez lends a helping hand with change for a parking meter.

Maintenance Ambassador Rosemary Ramirez lends a helping hand with change for a parking meter.

To make watering them all go a bit smoother, the staff’s Jack-of-all-trades, Tom Vanata, rigged a tank and pump onto a small trailer they can tow around Downtown.

“I water more than 200 plants three times every week,” Vanata said.

Weekends are the worst for the maintenance crews. Crowds of revelers are definitely good to have Downtown, but with that comes a raft of maintenance issues, such as trash, broken benches and planters – and a lot of personal items left behind.

Every Sunday evening, maintenance workers slowly make their way through Downtown with a power washer, blasting the weekend’s grit and grime away.

“It’s really bad for all of us on Monday when we come in,” Ramirez said.

The maintenance ambassadors find numerous cells phones, random cash, credit cards, backpacks purses and other valuables left behind.

Maintenance golf carts like this one are a common sight Downtown.

Maintenance golf carts like this one are a common sight Downtown.

When there is a bank card, they take the items to the bank. When phones are unlocked, they try to call family members from contacts to find the owners. They try to find owners if possible.

They regularly find odd items lost during the night. Shoes, hats, you name it. If a person can wear it or carry it, a maintenance Purple Shirt has probably found one.

And true to their ambassador title, they will do whatever they can to make Downtown visitors welcome. They frequently give directions, and on one recent morning, Ramirez was quick to help an elderly couple with change for a parking meter.

Collectively, the maintenance Purple Shirts keep a steady pressure against the onslaught of stuff that would otherwise overwhelm Downtown in a matter of days. You might not notice what they’re doing as they criss-cross Downtown, but you would certainly notice if they didn’t do it.

If you have or see a maintenance issue Downtown, you can call the Purple Shirts at (520) 940-0806. You can also report maintenance issues online here.

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