By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 9/8/19
This year, instead of just getting close enough to touch, kids coming to the 5th Annual Touch-A-Truck event at Camino Real Middle School on a Saturday morning were able to climb inside and honk the horn of the Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) vactor truck.
In effect, the vactor truck is a huge, powerful vacuum, sucking clogs out of large city sewer pipes. With the kids eagerly honking, it gave Ignacio Mondragon, LCU senior heavy equipment operator, a chance to chat with parents. “It’s mostly clogs made of wipes that we suck out of the pipes,” he explained. “They say they’re ‘flushable’, but they can really clog up plumbing not just for you, but your neighbors, too, when the wipes get trapped farther out in the pipes’ elbows.”
Organized by Morning Star Mothers of Preschoolers and MOMSNext, Touch-a-Truck is a fundraiser for the local community to support Turning Point of Las Cruces, Lighthouse Clothing and Food Pantry, Jardin de Los Niños, and Project Linus. Other local organizations bring their trucks, too, from the City of Las Cruces Fire Department and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office to Klein Towing and City of Las Cruces Animal Control. In turn, kids get to look inside and experience the big trucks they see daily in their neighborhoods, such as the LCU trash trucks.
On the other end of the playground, appropriately near the trash bins, were more LCU trucks - the front loader for commercial dumpsters, the side loader for the weekly pickups of household trash, and the Green Grappler which comes by monthly for green waste like trimmed branches and clear bags of yard waste.
The Green Grappler held the biggest fascination for most of the littlest tots, who got to see the operator demonstrate Grappler capabilities by grabbing an orange cone and dropping it from two stories up onto the ground. Cordoned off at a safe distance, performances like this give kids their fill of seeing the trucks that capture their imaginations. But part of the message is: these trucks are really big and little ones need to keep their distance when they are on the street doing their jobs.
“We have our regular neighborhood kids we watch for who run up to the trucks and we have to be so careful with our trucks to make sure they don’t get hurt,” said Marcelo Archuleta, LCU senior equipment operator. “We love seeing them, but this gives them a chance to watch the machinery without us having to worry about their safety.”
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: The clanging and banging of the LCU front loader and the Green Grappler keeps kids (and their parents) in rapt attention at the 5th Annual Touch-A-Truck event.