The Town of Redwater is trying a unique strategy to get more people to wear face masks: money with the mayor’s mug on it.
Redwater town council voted Sept. 1 to have town administration create a $5,000 “Derrick Dollars” program to encourage residents to shop local and wear face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Town administrators suggested the program as an alternative to a mandatory mask bylaw that was also considered at that meeting.
The Derrick Dollars idea was modelled after Drumheller’s Dino Bucks program, which rolled out Aug. 4, and was funded by the town’s economic development department, said Redwater town manager Larry Davidson. The initiative, the full details of which are still under development, aims to encourage residents to follow good health practices and support local businesses during the pandemic.
Davidson said that the town plans to distribute 5,555 Derrick Dollar vouchers to local business owners to give to customers they saw practising COVID-related safety measures such as wearing masks, sanitizing hands and staying two metres apart. Each voucher would be worth $1 at any Redwater business. Once the program wraps up this December, businesses could redeem used vouchers (along with receipts showing how they were used) to the town and be reimbursed 90 cents per voucher.
Davidson said he had raised this idea with other area governments but had yet to hear back from them.
Davidson said that the dollars themselves “kind of look a bit like Monopoly money” and would feature the town’s famous oil derrick on one side and a picture of Mayor Mel Smith wearing a face mask on the other.
Smith laughed when asked about this use of his image, saying he thought staffers had been joking when they told him about it. While he acknowledged that putting his face on “money” like this might be controversial, he didn’t plan on running for re-election anyway.
“I don’t care what they call it, I don’t care what’s on it, as long as people use it and wear their masks,” Smith said of the Derrick Dollars.
Davidson said the Derrick Dollars would roll out on Oct. 1 and would be valid until Dec. 15.