Originally created 01/02/00

City agencies converge for quick cleanup



The cleanup that came after Augusta's mammoth Celebrate 2000 New Year's Eve Street Party proceeded Saturday as smoothly as the festivities the night before.

Soon after the bands fell silent and revelers retreated to their homes, crews from several agencies converged to restore downtown to its pre-party state.

"The goal was to get everything cleared and have Broad Street open by noon," said Augusta-Richmond County Recreation and Parks Director Tom Beck.

Through the efforts of the recreation department, Augusta Public Works, Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department, Augusta Trees and Landscapes and the Department of Corrections, streets reopened hours earlier than planned.

Sponsors of the event estimated cumulative crowds at nearly 25,000, with brisk sales of T-shirts, novelty items and beverages, including beer.

"That 25,000 figure includes people throughout the day and into the evening," said Julian Miller, general manager of The Augusta Chronicle, one of the event's sponsors. Other Celebrate 2000 sponsors were television station WRDW-TV (Channel 12), the Davis Broadcasting and Beasley Broadcasting radio groups, and the cities of Augusta and North Augusta. The project was a yearlong effort to usher in the new year with community events to draw attention to the area's past, present and future.

The party, Mr. Miller said, was particularly successful in its ability to attract and entertain a wide variety of people.

"If you looked at the crowd, it was one of the most diverse crowds you've ever seen," he said. "It was multiracial, multinational, had all age groups, and it was a family affair just like we said it would be."

The celebration also showed how capable Augusta is of holding large downtown festivals and how well the various agencies involved can work with one another for the benefit of the community, Mr. Miller said.

"The fire department, the recreation department and the sheriff's office not only worked tremendously well with us, but they worked tremendously well together," he said. "It was all enthusiastic, and we didn't see one negative thing."

Elizabeth Norris, entertainment chairwoman for Celebrate 2000, agreed.

"The best part was the families that participated. People brought theirs kids, parents and grandparents," she said. "Everyone had a real good time."

Mr. Beck said the cleanup progressed rapidly and ahead of schedule.

"There was a two-part cleanup," he said. "The first part of the cleanup started at 1 a.m. We had an asset recovery phase: picking up tables, chairs and returning golf carts.

"Our second cleanup began around 6 a.m. That involved picking up trash, clearing the road of debris and collecting the portable toilets."

Among the cleanup workers were a dozen Richmond County Detention Center inmates and 30 people working off community service sentences.

"We had a great crew working on this project," Mr. Beck said. "I just want to let them know they did a great job."

Despite reports of a few altercations during the New Year's Eve bash, Mr. Beck said the event was well-organized and that any problems that occurred were minor.

Mr. Miller said he was aware of about a half-dozen arrests, but only one of them involved someone inside the party area.

Late Saturday, Augusta still was experiencing a problem-free Y2K, said David Dlugolenski, director of Richmond County's Emergency Management Agency.

"Basically, it was all quiet in respect to Y2K nationwide and statewide," he said. The minor problems with a few participants at the party downtown were a small percentage considering the size of the crowd, Mr. Dlugolenski said.

City employees and other Augustans who head back to work Monday might have some minor glitches to deal with, but nothing serious or irreparable, he said.

Staff Writers Robert Pavey and Mark Mathis contributed to this article.

ReachAlbert Ross at (706) 823-3512 or ajrossjr@hotmail.com.