Bridging the gap with Baker's Crossing
Here's the question: What's preventing M.D. of Big Lakes from rebuilding Baker's Crossing Bridge?
It certainly isn't public opposition.
East Prairie residents want the bridge back. They're traveling an extra 20 minutes to get to town.
Banana Belt residents want it built. They even went as far as to take up a petition opposing a second access route, which would bring a road from East Prairie through Banana Belt and ultimately to High Prairie.
Recent meetings in both places, Oct. 14 and 15, had residents coming out in full force to show their support for a bridge.
AMEC, Big Lakes and East Prairie officials were on hand to show residents the five possibilities, how much they cost and what kind of work is involved.
It didn't matter. The message was the same: rebuild the bridge.
Judging by some of the comments and questions, residents were none too happy that there were any other considerations being given any weight.
During Big Lakes' most recent meeting, Oct. 22, Joyce Dvornek, councillor for Gilwood/Triangle, motioned to get the bridge built under an emergency program. Work with East Prairie, present a joint position to the Alberta government, and get the bridge built.
But none of this addresses the problem the municipality is having. This particular lagging response from them is doing nothing to help the situation. In fact, whether they see it or not, it's pitting neighbour against neighbour.
During the East Prairie meeting, one of the residents asked about insurance coverage and why it wasn't paying for the bridge.
Interestingly, Big Lakes is keeping pretty mum about it all. John Eriksson, chief administrative officer told the crowd, "That's in the finalization process."
Eight months have passed since the bridge burned. Why don't they know more about the insurance? Why so many meetings with lawyers in places like Edmonton? What don't they know about the insurance?
They aren't saying. They don't speak of it other than to say they're meeting with lawyers and others to discuss it.
Was the company that worked on the bridge insured to cover its cost if something happened? If not, why not?
As for the second access from East Prairie, why is it such a problem? The day before the bridge burned, the settlement council approached Big Lakes asking to be able to build and maintain it.
They needed the second access while the bridge was closed for repairs. They also needed it because of historical flooding problems and the need to evacuate residents during those times.
Then comes the presentation of a petition during the Banana Belt meeting. 84 names were printed with their signatures next to them.
All in all, the issue has the potential to blow up in Big Lakes' face.
This isn't an instance of two municipalities negotiating. These are long time residents of the entire community. They're all taxpayers, consumers, neighbours, friends and colleagues.
And in all of this, I've yet to hear anyone say they were going to Pearl Calahasen, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, and minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs.
If she can get a ministerial decision to not allow haying in Buffalo Bay turned around, surely she can help find monies to re-build Baker's Crossing or at the very least have Alberta Infrastructure prioritize it as an emergency.
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