Downtown Annapolis streets will soon be gum free, or so is the hope of city officials who spent $17,000 on a new "gum busting" machine.
The GumBuster, a high temperature power washer, was unveiled on Tuesday as part of Mayor Josh Cohen's beautification process for downtown.
"It may seem like a small thing; a little wad of used gum ... All this gum adds up when you literally have thousands of compressed gum wads," Cohen said.
He thinks it detracts from the beauty of downtown.
"This isn't just some nondescript development that was thrown up. The buildings here are authentic ... Our physical environment is part of our enduring appeal," Cohen said. "One of the core services of city government is making sure the physical environment is top-notch."
Public works employees also weeded city streets, replaced cobblestone pavers and repainted more than 13,000 feet of curbside markings and 116 lamp posts this summer as part of Cohen's cleanup initiative.
The city initially considered renting a gum removal machine, which uses an environmentally friendly detergent with hot water and a brass scrub brush to dissolve gum off city streets, said Public Works Director David Jarrell.
GumBusters' bid came in at $7,565—more than the cost of the machine—for the initial cleanup and then $4,895 each additional visit. So, Jarrell said the city opted to buy its own machine.
The machine cost $6,000—which included the cost of training 16 city employees— and another $1,500 added on for taxes and shipping. The remaining $9,500 was spent on six months of cleaning supplies and spare parts—which will be an on going cost of operation.
Jarrell estimated the annual cost for operation to be slightly less than $9,500. The city will start with Main Street and City Dock, but Jarrell said he has plans to expand to West and Prince George streets.
Cohen also announced the launch of Report It—a web based reporting system that allows residents to file complaints with the city about gum, trash or any other maintenance related issues 24/7.
He hopes people will use the system to act as the city's "eyes and ears," and City Manager Mike Mallinoff will evaluate response times to different types of complaints to determine if there is room for improvement.
There are also plans to launch a smartphone app for Report It some time next year to allow people to file a complaint when they see problem.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the cost for training city employees was included in the $9,500 fee. This fee was for six months of cleaning supplies and parts only. The training costs were included in the purchase price of the GumBuster. Patch regrets the error.