Pop-up spray parks and yarn-enhanced asphalt are some of the dozens of innovations the City of Red Deer is trying to improve quality of life and bump up efficiencies.
Impromptu spray parks sprang up in neighbourhoods around the city last summer when idle ladder trucks and fire hoses were deployed to create fountains of water that kids could play under.
Corporate Services director Lisa Perkins said the ladder trucks from Red deer Emergency Services were just sitting there, so an idea was born: Why not create some fun for kids around Red Deer?
Perkins figures about 400 children benefitted. “It’s about social inclusion and creating recreational opportunities.”
A long list of various efficiencies and innovations that were presented to city council during Tuesday’s budget process, included a new technology that has been tried out by the Public Works department.
The asphalt used to pave 67th Street, east of the Red Deer River bridge, contains some wax-coated bits of yarn. Perkins said these “chunks of fibre” are expected to extend the life of the roadway by stopping the formation of cracks that can lead to road degradation and pot holes.
Some of the other innovations on Perkins’ list are:
– The purchase of an automated license plate reader for police. This allows officers to scan up to 1,200 plates during each shift to identify vehicles that were reported stolen. (Red Deer has one of only two of these readers in use in Alberta).
– The city is saving $300,000 in contract costs with Enmax by using an automated meter reader. Rather than having a person going into residents’ yards, the water meter reader can obtain all the information needed by being pointed at a house from the road, said Perkins.
– Real estate agents are now being used to sell city lots in Timberlands and other new neighbourhoods instead of city staff. Perkins said this allows for better marketing, creating broader public interest, as more people can see the lots when they are listed on MLS.
Another change could save the city money while increasing ridership on transit buses.
Perkins said the city is working with various social service agencies, as well as Action Bus drivers, to inform some people with disabilities that conventional transit buses might better meet their needs.
Community Services director Sarah Cockerill said large transit buses now come with special features — they can be lowered on the side where passengers enter, and ramps can be extended for wheelchairs.
While not every person with disabilities will be able to use a regular bus — it involves getting to a bus stop — Cockerill said those who can will get to their destination faster. The small Action buses must make multiple stops to pick up and let off other people at their homes or destinations.
They are also in high demand and must be ordered days ahead of time.
While the financial implications have not yet been measured, “even one rider (switching) is a cost-saving,” said Cockerill.