New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 23, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas
14 I Thursday, June 23, 2011 I herald-zeitung.COM
VizKID aims to prevent hot-car deaths
By WHI Wright
Each year throughout the tountry, children are left in cars that are too hot or too r old, leaving grieving parents to wonder what they could've done to prevent what's become an all trio common tragedy.
During the* summer, temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly exceed outside temfx*ratures by 50 degrees in less than 45 minutes. That spells tx*ril for c hildren.
VisibleKIDS, a California-based firm, has come out with a device that reminds drivers that kids are in the < ar. ( ailed a VizKID, it resembles a smaller version of a blue parking cone, topped with a bright yellow sleepy-smiley face.
Tne 24-inch, 1 /«-pound device is placed upright into
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October 2009 to December 2010 prcxfuced 104 tickets totaling $3,611 in fines.
Morrison said the law is having its desired effect.
"The city is working in partnership with businesses downtown," he said. "All of this isn't something that's being unilaterally imposed by the c ity. Someone who has a c ustomer-based business generally wants to have the lx*st and closest spaces available to their customers.
"They can't make money if customers can't get to their businesses ... and they will make arrangements available for their employees in other locations."
Growth affects ordinance
City council in January approved extending the parking ordinance. Addressing concerns of some business owners, city staffers were instructed to find a way for the city to take over enforcement, while investigating ways of freeing up more spaces for those who work and live downtown.
Since inception of the parking ordinance, however, more businesses have moved in — and brought more issues with them.
"When people started going into restaurants and bars, they're not there for 15 minutes," Henne Hardware owner ftiul Martinka said. "They're there for two hours,
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the passenger seat to signal a c hild is traveling in a car safety seat. When the child Is removed, the driver lowers the VizKID from view.
"The VizKID was developed to help ensure the driver never forgets the child in back, while making passersby aware that there really is a (hild in back, right now," said inventor Dave Bell, who will be demonstrating their effectiveness from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at New Braunfels Farmers Market, on South Castell Street.
Joining Bell will be* New Braunfels Police Department
especially during the day."
Martinira owns his building in the 200 bloc k of West San Antonio, and has ample parking for his employees and tenants. But he can't understand the city's mindset when it allows permits to businesses that can't do the same.
"If (no parking) is available, they shouldn't let them open until they've arranged for their own parking," he said.
Downtown parking enforcement went on hiatus until late May, when council approved a recommendation from New Braunfels Downtown Board to resume downtown ticketing. Fbrk rangers replaced Elite Calibre workers in per-forming those tasks. In March, downtown employees who previously parked in the Chase Bank lot were barred from doing so by the new property owner.
Those events coincided with the start of tourist season, and created more demand for the two-hour spots.
City officials admit enforcement has been "at random" since it resumed a few weeks ago. Downtown employees claim inconsistency has led to tickets despite never having breached the two-hour lim-
"If they're going to enforce
e going i it, fine," said one employee of a downtown bar. "But do
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CpI. Frank Moreno, McKenna ^renting Program and Child f^ssenger Safety Seat coordinator Kristen Fain, and Beth Warren of Safe Kids-Austin.
New Braunfels was the site of the* first hot-car fatality this year in Texas, when an infant died after being left all day inside a vehicle in March.
"Don't think, 'It could never happen to me,"' Bell said. "We are all incredibly busy —sidetracked by cell phone conversations and rushing to make tight schedules. Any slight change in your daily pattern and you could easily walk away from your vehicle with the quiet, sleeping child in the back."
VizKIDs are made of safe polyurethane foam, with a neoprene body cover that withstands the intense heat inside vehicles.
They normally sell for $25, and product demonstrations are available online at www.visiblekids.com.
Bell plans to donate between 500 and 600 of the devices through NBPD and McKenna.
Jennifer Collier, McKenna's Health and Education director, said her organization will offer free car seat safety checks to area parents, each conducted by certified technicians, with free VizKIDs going to those completing the inspections. Collier said McKenna will provide free car seats or booster seats for families who quali-
To schedule an appointment for a free safety inspection or inquire about eligibility for a free seat, community members can ask for Fain at (830) 606-9500.
Downtown development coordinator Monique Vernon said she did receive complaints while Elite Calibre was in charge of enforcement. Since the Cedar Fcirk-based firm's contract expired in February, Vernon said park rangers have been properly instructed on ticketing procedures, which include recording license numbers and using different colors of chalk to mark tires.
Bar and restaurant owners on Castell and Seguin avenues say daytime enforcement isn't needed in front of their venues because few people park there between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. They remain upset there's a lack of available parking after 5 p.m.
Addressing those concerns, the city approved removing two-hour limits on 45 spaces along South Seguin and South Castell avenues.
"After the experimental period, we found there wasn't a need to have enforcement in those areas, but we kept it in others," Morrison said.
The 4B Board last week approved a recommendation for $41,000 to lease 61 parking spaces in the First Protestant Church lot on South Castell Avenue. Mor
rison said it will be on next week's council agenda.
Phoenix Saloon owner Ross Fortune said there is an obvious need for more public parking downtown, and although this is not a longterm solution to that problem, it is a good, positive first step.
What might be long-term solution is a downtown parking garage. The idea has been discussed over the past decade but isn't really viable because the land isn't available.
"It's nothing we're gping to be doing immediately," Morrison said.
Vernon said the downtown board is formulating other solutions, such as a metered system that would feature honor boxes at various locations within the downtown parking zone.
Morrison said there aren't any easy solutions for the parking problem — and there won't likely be any that will satisfy everybody.
"Doing the two-hour limits on some of the downtown parking is one step, and securing additional surface parking is another," he said. "We're just going to take progressive steps in securing parking downtown."
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the Guadalupe River.
"We were kind of on standby because it came in so quickly last year," Garcia said. "We didn't want to have to go through that again."
Last year, she said, the family saw four feet of water on their property and nearly five inches in their home.
Wednesday's storm was much more forgiv-ing-
According to Patrick McDonald, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Braunfels, the storm delivered between 1.3 and 2.5 inches of much-needed rain around the city. He said 1.3 inches fell between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., the heaviest period.
"It was not a drought-breaking rain. But it was definitely beneficial," McDonald said. "We'd need about 12 inches for drought breaking. If we got 12 inches in one day, it would be a flood."
As of June 1, New Braunfels Utilities began enforcing Stage II water restrictions, which include relegating lawn watering to one day a week dependent upon the last digit of a home address and only between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.
Gretchen Reuwer, NBU communications director, said the rain is a good relief but she doesn't believe it was enough to change much.
"I think it'll be a good boost but I don't know it will get us anywhere near out of stage II," she said.
"So, all those restrictions will remain in place."
Roland Ruiz, Edwards Aquifer Authority's assistant general manager for communications and external affairs, said the
rain brought at least a temporary respite from impending Stage III water restriction.
Ruiz said the authority, which had forecast Stage III restrictions as early as next week, thinks the small rise in aquifer levels could temporarily suppress demand on the
aouifer for irrigation and otner outdoor watering needs. However, the authority cautions the region is still under Stage II restrictions and will likely be under Stage III in the future absent any additional rainfall in the near future, Ruiz said Wednesday in a written statement.
Law enforcement spokesmen said they had quiet days because of the rain, unlike June 9, 2010, when they were running around saving lives after the storm.
"No weather-related incidents today, which is great," said Lt. Mark Reynolds of Comal County Sheriff's Office. "It's been a while since it's rained on us and we appreciate the people for being cautious out on the roads."
Chief John Robinson of New Braunfels Fire Department said the department got calls between 2 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. for three possible lightning strikes. He said firefighters found no signs of damage at either.
Also, Robinson said the rain was a welcome sight but the city still will not hold its annual July 4th fireworks display because of safety concerns.
"The bottom line is it really doesn't change anything," Robinson said. "I'm sure glad it rained, but it will take more than one event to change the drought conditions we're in."
McDonald said there is a chance for isolated showers today, but after that, the region will go back to sunny and hot days.
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