City grant will let ambassadors hire Clean Team member

Funding, approved 6-0 by City Council, means Clean Team will bring aboard fourth member

ahobbs@theolympian.comJanuary 10, 2014 

The Downtown Ambassadors Program will be able to hire a new Clean Team member thanks to grant money allocated by the Olympia City Council.

The $25,650 grant was approved Tuesday with a 6-0 council vote. As the name implies, the Clean Team monitors the downtown core for litter, graffiti, needles and more.

The program’s paid staff consists of three Clean Team members and two ambassadors. The ambassadors provide hospitality, customer service and information for anyone downtown, seven days a week.

With a fourth Clean Team member, the team can be more effective by splitting into two groups when working, said program manager Rob Richards.

In 2014, Richards hopes to establish a volunteer force for massive monthly downtown cleanups.

Richards also lauded this year’s addition of a second officer to the Olympia Police Department’s downtown walking patrol. The patrol was restored last summer when voters approved a sales tax increase for public safety.

After the downtown patrol went dormant in 2010, there was “no minimum expectation of behavior,” Richards said. The police presence can further dissuade anti-social behavior by some downtown dwellers, he said, and continue to shift the negative perception of downtown.

“It’s not necessarily about cops busting more people, but about cops asserting law and decorum,” Richards said.

The money for the Clean Team member comes from federal Community Development Block Grants and is being redirected from the city’s Isthmus Park project. Although these grants typically fund capital projects, the city may allocate up to 15 percent for social service projects such as the ambassador program, which started in 2012.

In 2013, the program received $147,000 in funding from the city. Councilman Steve Langer abstained from Tuesday’s vote because of his work as clinical director for the Capital Recovery Center, which contracts with the city to run the ambassador program.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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