Castor Mayor Richard Elhard feels good hanging onto both his council seat and the mayor’s chair.
Elhard was one of ten candidates vying for election in town’s municipal council election in the Oct. 18 election which saw himself and three other incumbent councillors re-elected, in addition to the three new members of council.
“It feels pretty darn good to have the people have the confidence in me, for starters,” said Elhard, in a recent interview.
“Then to have council re-elect me (as mayor), it’s quite humbling. It really is.”
When asked what goals council he has for council for the next four years, Elhard said that he would like the focus to be on the community’s aging infrastructure, and the inadequate federal and provincial funding model for new projects.
“Our biggest problem, what I’d like to address, is our infrastructure,” said Elhard.
“We struggle mightily to keep our infrstructure in place … I’ve spoken to (Member of Parliament) Damien Kurek about more help from the federal government for that.”
The funding model used for the previous major infrastructure work in Castor was a one-third, one-third, one-third model, with the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, and the municipality each contributing to the project equally.
The last major infrastructure project in the community was the 51 St. revitalization project, which cost around $4 million. Former MP Kevin Sorenson secured $1.3 million worth of federal funding for the project, which was matched by the province, which left Castor “on the hook” for the rest, according to Elhard.
“That was tough for us. It really was,” said Elhard.
“We just need a better funding model. All these small communities in Damien’s riding are facing the same issue. We’re not alone.”
Another focus for Elhard and council will be keeping costs as low as possible for residents.
“Being that we are a retirement community, we try to keep our costs for gas charges, for our water system, for garbage collection, as low as possible in order not to hit our more senior citizens in the pocket book,” said Elhard.
“We take very very seriously any increases to rates.”
While Elhard would like to see new investment and businesses brought to the community, he acknowledges that the distance from the ‘Hwy. 2 Corridor,’ where development tends to concentrate, would make drawing businesses to Castor a challenge, and instead council needs to continue focusing on the businesses already in the community.
“Economic development would be great for us, but it would be a really tough sell, away from Hwy. 2,” said Elhard.
“We’re really lucky to have the (businesses) we have. We need to support the ones we have.”
As for the newly formed council, Elhard is optimistic.
“I’m really optimistic about our three new councillors,” said Elhard.
“I have no worries at all. As far as the new council goes, I’m absolutely pumped about it.”
The same can be said for Elhard’s thoughts on the way the municipality is working with the County of Paintearth, citing the recently signed new recreation funding model as an example.
“I really like the way we are interacting back and forth with the county,” said Elhard.
“I talk back and forth with the county councillors quite a bit. I feel we have an excellen relationship with (them). They have the money, and we are the ones doing the asking, so we have to do so in a very respectful way.”
Earlier in October, the Town of Castor and the County of Paintearth signed a funding agreement which would see the County paying for half the annual operating deficits of the community’s recreation programing, an estimated cost of around $150,000.