Sylvan council wants to talk more to citizens

The Town of Sylvan Lake plans to do more to keep citizens up to speed on town hall happenings. A $25,000 communications strategy took a long look at the way information is dished out, both inside town offices and outside to the community, and suggests some improvements can be made.

The Town of Sylvan Lake plans to do more to keep citizens up to speed on town hall happenings.

A $25,000 communications strategy took a long look at the way information is dished out, both inside town offices and outside to the community, and suggests some improvements can be made.

Generally, the town does a good job of informing residents and its staff, said consultant Garth Norris, of Edmonton-based Downey Norris and Associates, in a presentation to council.

It was suggested, though, that more could be done to improve the website and to fill in citizens through a newsletter that could be mailed out twice yearly.

The website could provide more detailed updates on town projects and provide more opportunities to gather feedback through citizen surveys and online forums.

Expanding and enhancing the town’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter is also recommended.

Coun. Sean McIntyre was enthusiastic about the approach recommended, calling it a “philosophy change” for the town.

“I think that’s what we’ve been waiting for for a while now.”

Mayor Susan Samson said she would like to see the town look at expanding on some of the brochures it produces and to look into spreading its message through other media, such as radio.

The communications strategy suggests a citizen satisfaction survey every three years, but Samson said it should be done every other year.

Coun. Dale Plante had some concerns that public input was limited to 169 responses volunteered by residents, mostly through an online survey. It seems not enough effort was put into gathering public feedback, he said.

Norris said the intention was not to undertake a statistically valid survey, but only to give an opportunity for residents to share their thoughts.

A full resident survey would cost an additional $20,000 to $25,000 with no guarantee of providing much more information.

Council approved the communications strategy on Monday.

Town communications officer Joanne Gaudet said staff will now use the strategy to recommend specific projects, which will be brought back to council for approval.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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