By Kevin Collison
Piles of trash that had accumulated beneath Bartle Hall on MoDOT property along I-670 were removed this week by unique private effort that included eight people working off their community service hours.
The day-long effort organized by the Downtown Council Community Improvement District (CID) occurred after futile efforts to persuade the Missouri Department of Transportation to clean up its downtown right-of-way.
“It was just horrible,” Sean O’Byrne, president of the CID, told Downtown Council board members Thursday. The Council is a nonprofit organization of downtown business and property owners.
“We had many, many conversations with MoDOT, it’s 100 percent on their land,” O’Byrne said. “They straight out said we can’t do it. We don’t have the money, we don’t have the manpower, we don’t have the equipment.”
MoDOT officials could not be reached immediately for comment.
Under the leadership of managers Santos Ramirez and Jack Henry, the CID approached the Metropolitan Crime Commission to enlist labor from people owing community service hours. They also got the city to provide a couple dump trucks and drivers to haul it away.
“We know we needed to come up with a solution to get this cleaned up and a longterm solution to keep it clean moving forward,” O’Byrne said.
“I took the situation back to our staff. Together, these guys (Ramirez and Henry) came up with a plan to attack this problem.”
The eight workers furnished by the MCC collected an estimated two dump truck loads, about 150 extra-large trash bags, from beneath Bartle Hall. A companion effort the next day collected 40 bags from MoDOT property along the North Loop in the River Market.
O’Byrne said the state agency did provide “crash trucks” to protect workers from traffic as the removed the trash.
The piles of trash, much of it left by homeless people finding shelter along the concrete freeway embankment or panhandling beneath Bartle Hall, created a terrible perception for people visiting downtown, O’Byrne said.
“For anyone who’s been in an SUV or truck, when you’re a little higher up, this is what every soccer mom or volleyball mom bringing her kids to this environment was seeing,” he said.
Moving forward, O’Byrne said MoDOT has agreed to put up fencing to prevent people from getting down on the freeway embankment beneath the convention center. The CID also plans to make twice daily visits to prevent trash from accumulating again.
“It’s MoDOT property, this is little off our beaten path, but we’ve got to take care of the gray area, the space between spaces that means so much for our convention district and anyone entering downtown,” he said.
O’Byrne said the CID “Ambassadors” would try to assist homeless individuals frequenting the area.
“We have services to help, we just have to get them there,” he told the board.
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