By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
The Dec. 14th meeting of the Town of Castor council was a relatively sedate affair.
To open the meeting, the Paintearth Adult Learning manager, Cindy Heidecker, appeared before council as a delegation, highlighting the challenges and the successes of what has been an incredibly challenging year.
Heidecker reported that in the year to date 37 classes were successfully run, while 28 others were forced to cancel for a variety of reasons.
“Some of that was lack of registrants,” said Heidecker.
“Others were because COVID-19 shut us down.”
Paintearth Adult Learning is funded through the Government of Alberta Advanced Education portfolio and Indigenous and Community Connections, and the sponsoring body, who manages organization finances, is the County of Paintearth.
Under the Community Adult Learning Program grants, Paintearth Adult Learning is mandated to provide adult literacy programming and to assist foundational learners in the region.
Foundational programs offered by Paintearth Adult Learning include reading, writing, and a variety of life skills.
In addition to the foundational courses, Paintearth also runs community capacity building courses, which must be run on a cost-recovery basis. These courses can include first-aid or other workplace or safety type courses.
Information on all of Paintearth Adult Learning’s courses can be found at www.paintearthlearning.ca.
Town of Castor Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Robblee informed council during the meeting that he is anticipating the Town of Castor to be operating at a deficit in 2021.
“Compared to last year, we will run a deficit budget,” said Robblee.
“Mainly because of COVID.”
Robblee informed council that many of the Town of Castor’s departments are running at losses, in part due to the increased costs surrounding the cleaning necessitated by the ongoing pandemic.
Further impacting budgets is the lockdown the town finds itself in, where facilities such as the arena are running but unable to generate revenue due to being ordered closed.
“We have to run it, and have to have an employee check in on it,” said Robblee.
Administration has decided to leave the ice in the arena for the time being, in the hope that skating can resume in the New Year.
Robblee told council that they will re-evaluate later in January, and if a decision needs to be made to pull the ice out early due to prolonged shut-down, he will bring it to council for final approval.
Nineteen outstanding utility or other accounts receivable to the Town of Castor have been transferred to the corresponding tax rolls.
Per the utilities policy and under the Municipal Government Act, if a property has their utilities shut off due to failure to pay the Town may transfer the outstanding balance to the corresponding tax roll.
Utilities are not restored to the property until the outstanding balance is paid. The only other time municipalities are allowed to transfer accounts receivable to the tax roll is in the case of unpaid enforcement actions undertaken by the Town.
Shirley McLellan Regional Water Services Commission
The Town of Castor has received notice from the Shirley McLellan Regional Water Services Commission that the cost for water will be going up in 2021.
In 2020, the Town of Castor paid $2.60 per cubic metre of water, and in 2021 that rate will increase a nickel to $2.65. Truck fill stations will jump from $3.10 a cubic metre of water to $3.80.
Letter of support
Town of Castor council has agreed to send a letter of support surrounding the City of Cold Lake’s motion urging the Government of Alberta to allow the federal government’s COVID-19 tracing mobile phone app, and abandon Alberta’s ‘Trace Together’ app.
The motion acknowledged Alberta’s quick response to the pandemic and the creation of Alberta’s app, but they feel that the federal app offers better protection to their residents.
Castor’s council agreed, directing CAO Robblee to draft and send a letter of support to Premier Jason Kenney, health Minister Tyler Shandro, as well as other MLAs, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and all municipalities in the province.