CADI teams proud of cleaner downtown

They have no super powers, but on foot, Segway or bike, Augusta's men in green have become the superheroes of downtown.

 

Since late March, the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative members have been community watchmen and annihilators of dirt and trash from Reynolds Street to Greene Street. The men, known as caddies, do everything from assist police with car crashes to suggest the best dish at a downtown eatery, said Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay.

They have helped make downtown safer and cleaner, he said. Caddies seek out suspicious people lingering downtown, dissuade panhandlers, spot abandoned cars and make many other reports to the sheriff's department daily, Lt. Gay said.

"They are the eyes and ears of the inner city," Lt. Gay said, adding that he had no statistics on the actual impact the caddies have had on downtown crime. "I think they've done well reporting crime and being seen. They've cleaned up the inner city tremendously."

Downtown property owner Coco Rubio agreed. He co-owns two bars on Broad Street: Soul Bar and Sky City.

"I see them during the day all the time, and that's important for them to have that visibility," Mr. Rubio said. "Seeing the caddies around improves the whole impression of downtown."

On an average day, about six caddies, made up of safety ambassadors and green team members, work from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., said CADI project manager Jessica Fuselier. Safety ambassadors direct tourists to hot spots downtown, check on businesses and patrol the area, Ms. Fuselier said. Members of the green team pick up trash, steam clean the sidewalks and streets, do weed control and take care of other maintenance needs.

"These guys work on the hottest days of the month, and they take some breaks, but they do whatever it takes to keep downtown clean," she said.

The green team has helped collect close to 40 tons of trash and have found dozens of graffiti pieces tagged on downtown businesses, Ms. Fuselier said.

Zhivago Ramsey, a lead worker on the green team, said cleaning up downtown has been rewarding.

"I remember pressure washing Broad Street one time," he said. "It was all black from dust and dirt. When we cleaned it, it looked like brand new concrete. I like that we can do this job, and look back and see what we've done."

Safety ambassador Darrell Rivers said the thrill of his day goes beyond riding his nifty Segway.

"Just knowing that you helped someone feels good," he said. "I try to put a smile on everyone's face."

Though the safety ambassadors assist police during late-night events such as the Payback concert and First Fridays, they primarily work during the day, said Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Augusta Downtown Development Authority, which spearheaded the CADI project.

The safety ambassadors will begin working from 2 to 10 p.m. every weekend starting Saturday, Ms. Woodard said.

Funding for the program comes from the Business Improvement District, which includes 30 downtown blocks, she said. The property owners in that area pay an additional tax assessment to fund the cleanup and safety services. The service costs $370,000 a year; the assessment will bring in about $400,000 annually, she said.

The property owners have put their money to good use, Ms. Woodard said.

"It just makes downtown more personable for people," she said. "On top of that, we went from the perception of a filthy downtown to a safe and clean downtown."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.