SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - St. Patrick’s Day is less than two months away, and the city of Savannah is ramping up its preparations.
“The day after St. Patrick’s Day, we start planning for the next year,” said Susan Broker, Director of Savannah Special Events, Film and Tourism. “It really is that much planning and that much effort that goes into this. Really, we kick off the first week of January, so when everybody’s coming back to work and it’s kind of slow, for us it’s not.”
After last year's celebrations, Broker said the city and its partners decided to focus on improvements in fours areas: mobility, communications, public safety and cleanliness, and work to control behavior in one particular downtown square.
"I think the biggest change you're going to see this year is Chippewa," she said. "Everybody agrees, whether it's the parade committee or our other partners who put on the festival or the city of Savannah, that Chippewa Square needs to be addressed. Increasingly, it's become more and more difficult to manage. There's a lot of underage drinking. There's a lot of litter. Just some behaviors that are not acceptable in our community."
Fire Street Food sits along Chippewa Square, and the first thing shift manager Gem Villamor are alcohol and trash.
“A lot of drunk people,” she said. “I mean, all green, but I’m just saying it’s a lot of people. People are hyped up. You would see trash, like food containers and stuff like that.”
Down the street at Gallery Espresso, manager and co-owner Jessica Barnill sees the same thing.
"It's kind of almost like a free-for-all," she said.
Broker said the city wants people to have a great time but do it safely and legally.
"We're creating an environment where they can do that," she said. "We just are going to have rules in the environment."
They're considering options, like closing Chippewa Square after the parade, adding more trash cans and even issuing fines and holding night court to help curb wild behavior.
"It's a greater police presence," she said. "It's a greater code compliance presence. Certainly, it's more trash cans. This year, for example, the parade committee is a great partner on cleanliness. They will be going around at the beginning of the day and passing out trash cans so that people will use them and help our city workers clean up our beautiful city. It's a huge job, and everyone needs to pitch in and help."
Villamor and Barnhill say extra trans cans would be welcomed.
"People would be like, 'Hey, let's throw trash decently instead of on the ground' and what not," Villamor said. "It would be great."
Barnhill said, “People that take up the land in the square should be responsible for their own belongings and trash. Definitely, I think some more recepticles would be helpful with any festival event.”
To improve mobility, Broker said the city is working with Uber, Lyft and motor coaches to set up pickup and drop-off points.
"We want to make sure people can get into downtown safely, leave downtown safely, get picked back up and get to their destinations eventually safely," she said.
She said the city would love for people to use some kind of public transportation - the shuttles, Uber, Lyft or CAT bus service - to get to and from downtown instead of trying to park in the limited number of downtown spaces or carpool if you plan to drive.
"Do whatever you can to kind of minimize the number of vehicles on the street," Broker said.
Broker said the communications improvements are mostly internal to ensure the city is prepared for any kind of emergency situation, but she also said the city is working to keep people connected better through cell phone.
"People don't know their phone numbers anymore, so if their cell phone dies, they can't just borrow someone's that they don't know," Broker said. "Having those charging stations and docking stations is really important. We'll probably have more of those this year."
Overall, she hopes these improvements create a better, safer environment for everyone.
“We know it’s St. Patrick’s Day,” Broker said. “We know everybody’s going to come down here and have a great time. We just want them to be safe and clean up after themselves.”