Headlines: Aug. 14, 2023

· The Pulse
  • Testing on the Valley Line Southeast LRT will resume along the south portion of the line from Whitemud Drive to the Mill Woods stop. A city release reminded Edmontonians to be cautious and follow traffic signs, as some intersections do not allow right turns on red lights and turns may be restricted at certain times. Testing was paused in June after TransEd, the consortium contracted to build and operate the line, discovered signalling cables that were oxidizing earlier than expected and needed to be replaced. TransEd said it is continuing to replace cables north of Whitemud Drive, but has finished that work on the line's southern portion. There is still no service date for the line, which was originally scheduled to open in 2020.
  • The city is seeking feedback on public washrooms through an online survey available through the end of the year. The survey focuses on 12 locations that have on-site attendants, which were introduced as part of a 2019 pilot project to help improve cleanliness, safety, and accessibility. The attendant program has been transformational for the Whyte Avenue washroom, said Cherie Klassen with the Old Strathcona Business Association. "Prior to the washroom attendant program, our public washroom was really more of a liability than an asset," she said.
  • The Canadian government announced $1.1 million in funding for youth-led accessibility projects in partnership with 131 organizations across the country. The funding is being distributing through the Enabling Accessibility Fund youth innovation component. The Paralympic Sports Association in Edmonton received $9,162 and the Edmonton Symphony Society received $10,000 under the program's 2022 call for proposals.
  • With no public parking available at Edmonton Folk Fest, the festival continued to encourage alternative transportation options, including drop-off zones, a bike lockup near the Muttart Conservatory, and dedicated scooter parking areas. The much-anticipated Valley Line Southeast LRT will provide easier access for attendees once it opens, noted festival producer Terry Wickham, since the line will have two stops near Gallagher Park.
  • The Alberta Capital Region United Way held its annual Tools for School event in Edmonton to provide free school supplies to families in need. The non-profit said the demand for supplies increased significantly this year, with a request for 21,000 backpacks compared to the usual 15,000 to 16,000. Ben Ripley, program leader with the United Way, said factors such as inflation, higher school enrolment rates, and an influx of newcomers are contributing to the increased need for assistance.
  • Animal rescues say they are overwhelmed with a surge in cats being surrendered or abandoned in Edmonton, prompting advocates to call for updates to the cat bylaw to include mandatory sterilization as well as subsidy options. Al Buttnor, with the Edmonton Cold Weather Animal Rescue, said his group had rescued 321 cats as of the end of July, up from 129 during the same period last year. Rescues say many people are forced to surrender their cats because of housing that won't accept pets, along with financial pressures due to care costs.
  • Kristin Voss-Dahl, a licensed practical nurse who works with Boyle Street Community Services, shared her advice on what Edmontonians can do if they encounter a potential overdose in public. Voss-Dahl recommends checking on individuals passed out on the street, and to call emergency services if the person remains unresponsive, noting that a rise is homelessness in the city has made the opioid epidemic more visible. Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee also stressed the need to call emergency services and to administer naloxone if available. "You just can't leave a person. The first thing is to call somebody," McFee said.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank is reiterating its urgent call for donations as it continues to experience a "staggering" rise in demand. The food bank says there has been a 26% increase in food hamper requests this year over last year, with about 34,000 people receiving hampers each month. Donations are accepted at city fire stations and major grocery stores, and attendees of the Aug. 27 Edmonton Elks game against the Ottawa Redblacks are asked to bring non-perishable food items with them to Commonwealth Stadium as part of the Purolator Tackle Hunger event. In response to the increased need, the food bank has also launched the Beyond Food program, which helps people with resume writing and job searches. "If we can get somebody a job that pays them a little bit better, and they don't need the food bank, to me that's a win," said executive director Marjorie Bencz.
  • The mosquito population in Edmonton exploded after a dry spring and rainy June, but has decreased since its peak in mid-July. The latest count from the city's mosquito traps show 4,500, down from 22,000 last month, but the number could rise again due to recent rainfall, said Sarah McPike with the city's Pest Management Lab. McPike said crews are continuing to target the mosquito population and are "eliminating a lot of the mosquito larvae that are developing in the city."