‘While You Were Sleeping’: Centro San Antonio’s overnight crews adjust to big changes

COVID-19, riots create new challenges for downtown’s caretakers

Crews that clean the downtown area overnight now have extra duties due to major events including the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAN ANTONIO – Just one year ago, dirt represented the biggest challenge for Centro San Antonio’s overnight crews.

They had to wipe it off bus stop benches, scrub it off sidewalks and water it in hanging plants that line downtown streets, all before sunrise.

Times, as they say, have changed now.

Along with power washing downtown sidewalks, Centro crews also focus on wiping down smaller surfaces where germs can thrive. (KSAT 12 News)

While they still are charged with putting a sparkle on the center of the city, those workers also have to worry about safety now.

"Since COVID-19 hit, all our staff has been wearing all the PPEs, face masks and keeping social distances,” said Mike Pacheco, general manager of Centro San Antonio, Inc.

Pacheco said gearing up for war against the coronavirus has become part of the job.

A lot of little things now get a lot of their attention.

“Wiping down doorknobs, trash receptacles, any high touch areas,” he said.

Workers on all shifts, Pacheco said, are taking the extra precautions now.

But on the overnights, they are racing against the clock, trying to make sure their extra long to-do list gets done before the sun comes up.

While the city was under lockdown during the quarantine, Centro San Antonio took on yet another role.

Pacheco says he reassigned some staff members to conduct overnight patrols of the downtown area.

A truck driven by Jeff Cartmill idles as he prepares to begin his patrols of the downtown area. (KSAT 12 News)

“Look for people, look for things that are out of place,” said Jeff Cartmill, a team leader who is now part of the security patrol.

“It does feel good,” he said, of the job. “It’s basically giving back and I’m getting paid to do it.”

One recent weekend, though, no one saw the kind of trouble coming that unfolded downtown.

San Antonio police say a group of people, intent on causing chaos, went on a rampage that Saturday night after a peaceful protest.

They broke out windows, painted graffiti and destroyed other property, police said.

Dozens of volunteers quickly pitched in early the next morning and helped with the cleanup.

Centro San Antonio’s management later held a news conference to say thank you to them.

They were grateful for the help in making the city shine once again.

About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Tim has been a photojournalist and video editor at KSAT since 1998. He came to San Antonio from Lubbock, where he worked in TV and earned his bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University. Tim has won a handful of awards and has earned a master's in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Tech as well.