Town council, MLA collide over contentious intersection

Sylvan Lake town council and its rookie MLA are embroiled in a war of words over the contentious Hwy 781 and Hwy 11 intersection.

Sylvan Lake town council and its rookie MLA are embroiled in a war of words over the contentious Hwy 781 and Hwy 11 intersection.

Last week, Kerry Towle, the Wildrose MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, hosted a public meeting to update residents on her lobbying efforts to open up the intersection that was changed to a right-in, right-out configuration for safety reasons.

While town council says they were aware of the meeting, they said they did not receive a formal invitation. Towle has maintained she extended an invitation.

The gathering drew about 350 people from Sylvan Lake and surrounding area who voiced their dismay over the province’s decision to reconfigure the intersection instead of installing traffic lights.

Towle made a point at the meeting of saying that town council was not there to hear people’s concerns. She also suggested that town council was not listening to the needs of the community.

A few days after the meeting, the Town of Sylvan Lake posted an open letter to residents on its website outlining some of its communication problems with the opposition MLA.

Mayor Susan Samson said the town has made a concerted effort to keep the MLA up to speed on intergovernmental affairs involving the town, including the Hwy 781 and Hwy 11 intersection, and Memorial Trail and intersection upgrades (including Memorial Trail and Hwy 20, Hwy 11 and Hwy 20, and Hwy 781 and Hwy 11, and 60th Street and Hwy 11).

The town secured $6.6 million to build out Memorial Trail and the intersections. Samson said the relationship with the MLA is very one-sided.

“We’re very concerned and we spent quite an amount of time and effort to communicate the priorities of our community to the MLA and I don’t believe that’s being reciprocated,” said Samson.

“Yes, Mrs. Towle has talked about how she has attended all these events and activities in our community and that has been at our invite.”

Samson said town council has worked very closely with Alberta government to look after the efficient transportation of residents and the travelling public in the area.

“Council is pleased to report there have been no accidents Hwy 781 and Hwy 11 since the changes have been made.”

Samson said there is no reason for the town to go back to the province to open the conversation on this issue.

However, Towle said it is very clear that the residents in her riding want the intersection re-opened. She said it is her mandate to listen to the residents and lobby on their behalf to the province.

“Clearly this residents are saying this solution does not suit their needs. There are many intersections across this province that are safe and can be used as examples of how this one could be made safe.

“I understand town council’s position initially that it was unsafe intersection but I believe there are ways to make it safe again that don’t include the closure.”

Towle posted a response to the town’s letter on her Facebook page indicating that she invited town council to the public meeting. She said the meeting was advertised in local newspapers that the meeting was open to the public and she sent emails to the town.

“Realistically, the relationship is fine,” said Towle. “There might be a little of a miscommunication but I am sure the town and I will sort it out to do what’s best for the residents.”

Both Sylvan Lake town council and Towle said they look forward to working together over the next four years.