City Center Waco may hire someone to act as hall monitor for downtown Waco, recording the location of eyesores like trash and bird droppings and reporting them back to City Center Waco’s office.
During a meeting Wednesday, members of the Downtown Public Improvement District board, which would pay for the position, learned of hurdles preventing other PID partners from filling the role. City Center Waco likely will look to hire someone for the new position in the spring, said James Clifton, who represents the Dr Pepper Museum on the PID board.
“It could be landscaping problems, it could be torn banners, anything they notice that doesn’t look right. At the end of the day or during the day they can call in to the office,” Clifton said. “It’s basically a person out there who can be a presence for security, be a presence if a visitor has a question, but mainly to be eyes on the ground.”
The board budgeted $59,000 this year for “clean and safe” services, which includes security guards, graffiti cleanup and bird dropping cleanup. In previous years, the board budgeted between $5,000 and $15,000 for graffiti abatement.
“There’s more in the ‘clean and safe’ direction, as that’s about 50%, 60% of the budget,” board President Peter Ellis said.
The PID is funded by a surtax of 10 cents per $100 of property value assessed on businesses in the district.
Reports of graffiti increased significantly last year, though it was difficult for the board to tell if the uptick was simply a result of more eyeballs on downtown’s buildings as foot traffic from tourism increased, officials have said.
The board initially tried to leverage security guards already working for in the PID under contract, asking them to report messes as they performed their duties, but it proved ineffective.
“During the daytime, part of the duty was being performed by the security contractor,” Clifton said. “We weren’t getting any information, it just didn’t work out. So we looked to contract with someone else in town.”
After that plan folded, the PID worked with Waco Tours for several months in an attempt to get their employees to do the same thing, but that arrangement was not ideal either, he said.
“They decided they didn’t want to do it, and we haven’t been able to find anyone else, so we just need to take it on ourselves,” Clifton said.
Lisa Torgersen, owner of Lawns Ltd., gave a presentation detailing how her company maintains 111 square blocks of unused lots and alleys in downtown for the PID. She said her workers are not under contract for trash pickup but often end up cleaning up loose trash while they mow, weed and edge.
“We’re having more trash overflow where it’s no one’s job to pick up trash,” Torgersen said. “It’s not our guys’ job, but we can’t pass by it so we keep picking it up.”
She said maintaining the alleys in particular has become more challenging as foot traffic in downtown has increased.
“We have a lot more people who are living there and a lot more people looking at what our downtown looks like, so we have to take care of that,” Torgersen said.