Castor Advance File Photo.

Castor Advance File Photo.

Town of Castor council highlights for Nov. 8, 2021.

Castor’s town council has tentatively approved a tenant to rent the former Golden Circle building.

With the COVID-19 pandemic collapsing revenues for Castor’s Golden Circle Club, the not-for-profit society was forced to cease operations and turn the building back over to the town in September.

At a previous meeting, council received a proposal from Castor and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), requesting they be allowed to rent the building from the town for $250 per month, plus offering to provide cleaning services in the building.

As the Golden Circle Club had not officially notified the town of their intentions to cease operations at the time the request came in, the matter was tabled.

Keeping services to the building, even with no tenants in it, is expected to cost the town around $15,000, which is an unbudgeted expense and would mean either further budget cuts by administration or a tax increase to balance the budget according to Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Robblee.

Currently, Castor FCSS pays $500 to the municipality to rent two offices in the town’s administration office building, as well as $200 a year to do the organization’s accounting.

One option, put forward by Coun. Don Sisson, was proposing a counter-offer, where the town would donate the accounting services, and charge FCSS $700 for the use of the building, allowing them to essentially continue paying the same they already are. The proposal was met with agreement by his colleagues.

“Can we afford to not take a look and try to make this work?” asked Coun. Shawn Peach.

Mayor Richard Elhard agreed.

“We need to keep this place open, even if we lose a few bucks,” said Elhard.

If Castor FCSS accepts the counter proposal and moves into the Golden Circle building, the organization will manage rental of the facility, but the rental funds would be returned to the municipality as FCSS is not allowed to generate a profit.

At the $700 monthly rent, the town’s deficit on the building would be decreased to around $3,000 a year, which, if the COVID-19 situation in Alberta continues to improve, could be further reduced as things reopen and the building gets rented out more.

Park work

At a previous council meeting, council directed administration to look into further development of Pals Park.

During review of the park system, it was discovered that a section of Pals park by Theresetta Catholic School and Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital actually belongs to the school division and Alberta Health Services respectively, and no further development can be done in the area.

However, an area of land was found adjacent to Theresetta School that did belong to the town which is suitable for further park development. Robblee subsequently began working with Mackenzie Van Hienen, a local student attending Olds College, to begin some initial design development for the property.

The work to-date was presented during council’s Nov. 8 meeting, and the design, currently in its fourth iteration according to Robblee, includes walking paths, a gazebo, and a 220 foot by 196 foot off-leash dog park.

Van Hienen did this work for the town as part of a final project for her schooling.

“The project is broken up in such a way that you can do portions of it over time,” said Robblee.

“In 10 or 15 years, you will have a park.”

The total cost for the dog park will cost between $24,000 and $35,000 dollars to construct, and a gazebo in the area would be around $7,000, and pathway paving would cost between $71,000 and and $132,000.

“I think (Makenzie) has done a fantastic job” said Coun. Trudy Kilner.

Coun. Kevin McDougall motioned to accept the presentation as information, and also suggested administration send a letter of thanks to the school, which was carried.

The project will be brought back to council at a later meeting for a decision on whether to proceed, and if so, on which parts to proceed with.

Water and gas system

The Town of Castor’s water and gas system continues to be a case of bad news and good news.

First the bad news.

On the water side, losses for for 2021 continue to run around 26 per cent, though according to Robblee, in October losses went from 2700 cubic-metres of water to 900 cubic-metres of water loss.

“The department runs at a loss. Water is a service that runs at a loss,” said Robblee.

“The residents would find it unpalatable to charge what you need to to not run at a loss.”

One sticking point with the water system is that due to the Alberta utilities regulator, the town is required to charge “one price across the board,” including to properties connected to the town water system that are outside the town’s borders.

Because these consumers just pay for the water, and none of the other tax-load assumed by the municipality residents, the municipality essentially subsidizes the water connections to the outside consumers.

The town did raise the base-rate to the water service in 2020, based on council direction, Robblee will bring it back to council again in 2022 for further review.

Sitting at five per cent in the positive, the municipally owned gas system is the good news.

“September was a good month,” said Robblee.

“We made some gains. Gas is very much an asset to the Town of Castor.”

While the surplus is positive news, Robblee did warn council that with energy prices expected to go up in the new year, the surplus is likely to drop.

“We’re anticipating that gas rates will go up by 2.7 per cent in 2022,” said Robblee.

Still, Mayor Elhard was happy that the town was “making a few dollars on gas.”

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