Over the next few weeks, three squads will tackle massive facade and landscaping improvements throughout downtown. When completed, a new Downtown Strike Team will come in to maintain the historic core.
In a surprising turn of events Monday evening, City Manager Bill McDaniel announced a new team comprised of current city staffers that will be dedicated solely to improving the facade of downtown.
Labeling the new task force as a “Downtown Strike Team,” McDaniel said the group will be able to fill in the gaps that lie between the current historic downtown core and the revitalized vision the city and its partners hope to bring to life in the next three to five years.
“I started out actually with the concept of a Downtown Strike Team, which basically would have four or five people dedicated solely to downtown,” McDaniel said. “They would be responsible for everything from keeping things clean to landscaping to reporting any problems they found to the appropriate city departments for immediate action. That was the initial concept, but then when I went down there on a walking tour, I was pointing out to the two assistant city managers all the things that I wanted to address, I realized I was actually setting them up for failure.”
The sheer number of issues McDaniel saw that needed to be addressed before the Strike Team could begin maintaining the downtown core continued to grow the longer he spent combing through the area. Before he knew it, he had a massive list of changes to make and he said he knew he needed to get those addressed before he could implement the new force.
He decided to create three different squads of city employees from different areas of expertise and have them begin an overhaul of downtown. These squads would feature landscaping, a tree crew, a Recreation and Parks Department crew and a few other professionals. Together they can spend two weeks downtown tackling the entire list.
“Once we have that all done, then the Strike Team concept can begin and they would have a chance to then maintain it,” McDaniel said. “The plan is pretty comprehensive. I’m changing out old technology, like switching the lights to LED in McCall park… trimming the trees back to replace the lighting that is hidden up in the trees. We will replace the old and worn-out signs that you see down there. There’s painting that needs to be done and landscaping that needs to be done. It’s just a long list.”
One of the other improvements McDaniel mentioned during Monday night’s commission meeting was to extend the music ran by the city throughout the west end of McCall Park. He said he knows the list is a lot of work, but he feels the changes can be made now before tackling some of the other downtown improvements highlighted in the Downtown Vision Plan.
McDaniel said they’ll use this week to plan and organize and will make a detailed map of all the task locations. Then they will hit the ground running.
No new personnel will need to be hired to bring this team to life. Currently, the Recreation and Parks Department rotates its crew throughout all of their areas of coverage around the city. When a team comes through downtown, they shift to another area shortly afterward and another team comes in behind them. McDaniel said this will simply take downtown out of the rotation and reallocate some of those crews to solely cover this one designated area.
“The target date to have this done is February 26,” McDaniel said during the commission meeting on Jan. 27. “We want to have this all completed prior to the Strawberry Festival so that by the time the Grand Parade rolls through downtown everything will be in shining condition and looking its best… This is important because downtown is the heart of our city.”