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Residents uged to fight plan

Posted on November 20, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Lethbridge isn’t the only city fighting the province’s plan to abandon local dispatching for ambulance crews.

But it’s crucial to raise citizens’ concerns now, says Lethbridge MLA Greg Weadick, because the final decisions will be made soon. Alberta health officials’ plan is to consolidate all dispatching to Calgary and points north.

“I know there are concerns about the plan, especially in the mid-sized cities with combined services,” Weadick says.

Red Deer and Fort McMurray are among other cities where citizens fear ambulance response times will deteriorate if control is taken away from local dispatchers. Like Lethbridge, they operate an integrated emergency service with firefighters cross-trained as advanced emergency medical responders.

They also dispatch their own crews and can use firetrucks to get first responders to the scene when an ambulance is too far away.

Weadick says Alberta Health Services authorities seem determined to seize control nonetheless.

“I believe they (health officials) are committed to consolidate the service, but I know there are a number of communities that feel that will be detrimental.”

The Conservative MLA’s comments follow Lethbridge city council’s decision — as nearly the first item of business for the newly-elected council — to vigorously oppose that change. Backing Mayor Chris Spearman’s strongly-worded resolution, council members formally asked the provincial government to “immediately reverse its decision to consolidate dispatch in the interests of the health and safety of Lethbridge and regional citizens.”

City joins app world

You hit a pothole? Or found a damaged tree in the park? Or graffiti at the rink?

For Lethbridge residents, there’s now a quick and easy way to report problems to various city departments — without being put “on hold.”

Wednesday morning, Mayor Chris Spearman filed the first report on “Leth Requests.” It’s a new “smartphone” application allowing anyone to take just minute to alert city staff.

But reports can also be filed on the city’s website at http://www.lethbridge.ca/servicerequests but users are reminded to add “Lethbridge” when they type in an address.

Bright red graffiti at the back of the curling club became the subject of the first report, which was relayed to city parks personnel. After Spearman used his phone to snap a photo of the vandalism, its GPS technology pinpointed the location as the message was relayed to city hall.

“This new app will allow us to work together,” he said. “Residents can request services with ease from their mobile devices, and we can follow up to help provide solutions and close the loop.”

Other reports could be about burned-out street lights, dislodged manhole covers, dogs running at large, unsightly premises or any of about 30 common situations.

After they’ve posed a report, the mayor pointed out, citizens can also check back to see if the situation has been remedied. But they can also check to see if someone else has already sent a request.

“This is a great new product for our residents,” allowing city staff to attend to issues more expediently.

Leth Requests can be downloaded free from the city’s website and offers versions for Blackberry, iPhone and Android devices. Citizens can report a problem anonymously, or provide contact information when they file their first report.

Operation Red Nose gearing up

For 18 years, it’s been a made-in-Lethbridge success story.

Now, Operation Red Nose is gearing up for its 19th party season. And with more callers — and more safe rides home — every year, the non-profit service is hoping to find more volunteers.

Weekend service will start Nov. 29, when University of Lethbridge students and other volunteers begin shuttling city residents home from seasonal celebrations. The university’s Pronghorn Athletics program has sponsored Red Nose since the start, and spokesperson Sandy Slavin says it’s raised more than $500,000 over those years in support of Pronghorns teams.

More than 1,100 rides were completed last year, she says — preventing who knows how many alcohol-related “accidents.” But this year, organizers are expecting still more.

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