Sylvan Lake mayoral candidates outline their positions at forum

SYLVAN LAKE — A local group lobbying for an urgent care centre has submitted its proposal to the province.

SYLVAN LAKE — A local group lobbying for an urgent care centre has submitted its proposal to the province.

The town’s Urgent Care Committee expects to have Alberta Health’s response within a month, said incumbent Mayor Susan Samson, who broke the news at a mayoral debate on Friday night.

Samson, who chairs the committee, said Sylvan Lake is among communities in line for one of 22 family care clinics promised by Premier Alison Redford. The hope is for Sylvan’s clinic to be, in practise, an urgent care centre by another name, offering seven-day-a-week non-life-threatening care, with extended hours and access to x-ray and laboratory services.

“Urgent care is what we’re going to get and we’re going to get it sooner, not later,” said Samson, at the debate that drew about 170 people to the Sylvan Lake Community Centre.

Coun. Sean McIntyre, who is now seeking the mayor’s job, praised the committee’s work and said he wants to see the centre become a 24-hour facility.

“I think that is something we can approach progressively.”

Realtor and political newcomer Melesa Starcheski said Sylvan needs a hospital to meet the needs of a growing community and seniors, especially given our aging population.

The province has rejected calls for a hospital previously, arguing the town is too close to Red Deer’s hospital.

Among the familiar local issues candidates were polled on was what they would do at Hwys 781 and 11. Residents have lobbied for a set of traffic lights at the intersection that has seen a number of fatalities.

Instead, the province insisted on a right-in and right-out access, which has frustrated many.

McIntyre said he wanted to see lights at the intersection, but the request was “immediately rebuffed” by Alberta Transportation.

“That doesn’t mean we give up,” he said.

Starcheski said the town should do more. “We can complain or we can step up and do something. That’s why I’m here,” she said.

Samson said the town was able to convince Alberta Transportation not to close the intersection completely — it’s first choice. The town also managed to line up $6.5 million in provincial funding to build Memorial Drive to improve links in the community.

While some residents want a set of lights, police and emergency services say the current configuration is working well, she said.

Candidates were also asked their positions on taxes and municipal borrowing.

Samson, who is seeking a third term as mayor, said the town is borrowing for important projects such as a new fire hall, which will go to tender this fall. Compared with other similar-sized communities, the town’s debt load is on target and well below allowed limits.

The town has also built up reserves of over $19 million to fund future projects and carefully watches its finances through a 10-year capital plan.

McIntyre, who has served one term on council, said borrowing ensures the community has the facilities it needs, offering as an example the arena, which will no longer be safe to use after 2015.

Borrowing also ensures residents who will be using the facilities are paying for them, he added. Taxes must be balanced with the needs of the community, he added.

Starcheski said the risk of borrowing must be looked at very closely. Avoiding taking on too much debt may mean delaying a project.

Candidates were also asked their positions on finding an affordable boat launch with parking, arts and culture, balancing infrastructure needs, and improving communication.

A council forum takes place at the community centre at 7 p.m. next Friday. The election takes place Oct. 21.

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