A blue bandana knotted around his head, Ernest Smith steers down into the parking bays on Broad Street. Then he jumps onto the sidewalks, as a long hose sucks up leaves, pine needles, straws, cigarette butts, cigarette packs and candy wrappers.
"It's cool up here," said Mr. Smith, perched atop the MadVac, a mini street sweeper.
Most days from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Mr. Smith, an Augusta public works employee makes his way down Broad, Reynolds and Telfair streets, then sweeps Fifth to 13th streets.
"That MadVac saved us a lot of time," said Wayne Shelly, superintendent of construction for Augusta Public Works. "A lot of time."
The city purchased the MadVac 101-D for $28,485 and has been using it for several months. Before the mini-street sweeper was purchased, three-men crews would use blowers and sweep up the trash, bagging it, and taking it to the landfill, Mr. Shelly said.
Now the MadVac sucks up the dirt, dropping it into a 25-gallon tank lined with a heavy-duty fiberglass trash bag. The fiber-glass bag lasts two to three weeks and is emptied six to eight times a day.
The MadVac can't suck up everything. If something gets stuck in it's bendable snout, Mr. Smith detaches it and puts it straight on the object. Someone walks alongside to pick up bottles and cans that can get stuck in the sweeper's throat.
"The MadVac's doing us a good job," Mr. Shelly said. "It saves a lot of man hours."