Allen James has an extensive tool kit and 20-some facilities to look after in Red Deer.
He’s one of the primary go-to guys if there’s trouble with a toilet in a recreational building, graffiti on a community hall or lines to paint on the Legion track.
Sometime after 7 a.m., the outdoor facility maintenance lead for the City of Red Deer climbs into a truck and heads out for a job offering plenty of variety.
On any given day, James may be dropping off cleaning supplies at the city-owned Heritage Ranch equestrian and natural area. He may be found at Bower Ponds pavilion building, doing everything from stripping the floors to putting up signs and changing lights. Following Canada Day celebrations last year, he and co-worker Colin Fraser spent much of their eight-hour shift rolling up straw and mesh laid out for revellers to sit on.
James may also be called out to the Legion track, behind Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, to fix cracks, repair bleachers and haul sand for the jump pits. Sometimes, he’s trimming the grass after it’s been mowed by parks staff.
There’s also basic plumbing and electrical work to do, helping set up at special events or pitching in at a local rink.
“By and large, I’m by myself. There are only two of us in the department,” James said. “However, during the summer, one of the fellows from the arenas comes to help, so you have quite a bit of a hand.”
Sometimes, he’s at the office inside the Recreation Centre where he’s busy phoning contractors and doing project research. But even when the weather is poor, like on this day when it’s spitting rain, the 33-year-old prefers to be outside.
He sports sunglasses on top of his head, his face tanned.
Being able to fix so many different things seems to come naturally for James. He took some biochemistry and engineering at college, but received no formal training in any trades.
If he has a problem at a job, he has a number of people he can lean on, from other operators to some friends who work in the trades.
“I have a good support structure here,” said James.
James was hired on with the city in May 1999, doing maintenance and janitorial work for the G.H. Dawe Community Centre until it shut down for renovations. He likes his current job even better.
“I like the freedom of this job,” James said. “You go around and find stuff and fix it, and you’re always learning something new at this. It’s not cleaning the same toilet every day.”
The 16 community association halls are a big job, and recently due to Red Deer County annexation, another building was added on the list, Central Park.
Pioneer Lodge is also cared for by the outdoor facility maintenance crew.
Graffiti and vandalism is one task James isn’t fond of.
“It cuts into your day so much,” James said.
With so much work to do, time management is a concern. He’s part of an on-call rotation every six weeks, so if there’s some emergency, he responds.
But the job definitely has its rewards.
“I quite like it, most days,” James said, smiling.