After the Party, it’s Time to Clean

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It’s one in the morning in Athens, Ohio on a Saturday night. The Athens Halloween Block Party may have officially ended, but partygoers can still be found all around Court Street.

Then, suddenly, policemen force everyone onto the sidewalk to make way for a Ford heavy duty truck. The truck belongs to the City of Athens Building Maintenance, and the workers inside of the truck are the guests of honor for the rest of the night.

The workers are part of the Engineering and Public Works services in Athens. The workers will stay as late as 6 a.m. to clean up after the block party.

“The guys work tirelessly through the night to make sure that’s pretty spotless so that Sunday morning, you know, everything looks spic and clean,” Andrew Daugherty, the assistant director of Public Works and Engineering of Athens, said.

About 25 men will be assigned different roles for the night. Some will use leaf blowers to clear the sidewalk of garbage. Others will be assigned to operate special vehicles designed to suck up the trash. And some people, like Jim Secoy, will have unique jobs.

Jim Secoy with the Public Works Department poses for a portrait. (Jordan Kelley/WOUB)

Secoy is on sweeping duty: he will walk up and down Court Street with a rake, making sure no soda can or paper plate is left on the street. He has been working the cleaning shift for 22 years. After all this time, he still enjoys working his shift.

“I enjoy it, I mean good to see everyone partying and have a great time and then clean up afterwards,” he said late that night.

People who clean the streets—whether employed by the city or otherwise—tend to have an interesting relationship with the students and other young adults who attend the block party. Many of them thank people like Secoy for their effort to clean the streets, while others—in clouded judgement—see the cleaners as a nuisance.

The night of the cleanup, there was an argument between a man using his own leaf blower and a partygoer. The man was using the blower to move trash off his property, but the partygoer believed the man’s leaf blower was too loud and ruining the fun. After a few minutes, both men calmed down and went their own ways; when asked about the situation, the man with the leaf blower declined to comment.

Secoy may have a very positive view of the partygoers, be he is not safe from hijinks, either. He said that, in one particular case, residents of an apartment on Court dropped pumpkins on him and his co-workers when he started cleaning.

But staff like Secoy doesn’t mind not getting recognition for their work. “It’s everybody in the street department, water sewer gets involved it’s, it’s pretty much an all hands on deck to get cleaned up,” he said.

Rob Heady, the Director of Engineering, thinks of his work the same way Secoy does. While Heady does have the goal of a clean Court Street in his mind, he would rather have the project go by unnoticed.

“As public service, public workers our job is to not be talked about and not seen,” he said. “If no one calls us or praises us that’s probably a good thing because usually we hear the complaints before the praise.”

There isn’t much fanfare after the block party. The staff goes in, gets the cleaning done, and goes home. But the cleaning has to be done, even if their work is just as mysterious as the Halloween block party itself.

View the video story featured on Newswatch here.