The Town of Castor council approved their 2020 budget at the regular meeting April 27 which included a four per cent mill rate increase.
All councillors were present for the meeting which was teleconferenced and broadcast on social media to meet pandemic guidelines.
Town CAO Christopher Robblee presented council with the draft 2020 budget and pointed out that the municipality saw a 2.4 per cent drop in assessment, meaning councillors would have to include a matching 2.4 per cent mill rate increase just to keep service levels the same as last year.
Robblee noted the budget was developed after about $181,000 in cuts to spending were made. The CAO stated councillors had several options, though, for budget approval.
Option #1 was the 2.4 per cent increase mentioned above plus a 1.6 per cent increase to address things like increased policing costs mandated by the provincial government.
Option #2 was a 4.5 per cent mill rate increase which was more flexible and allowed for some funds to go to reserves but was a bigger burden on the taxpayer.
Option #3 was a 3.5 per cent mill rate increase that meant a tighter budget but less pressure on taxpayers.
As Mayor Richard Elhard went around the table, Option #1 seemed most popular.
Councillors eventually passed motions approving the budget, the four per cent mill rate and the new policing funding fee.
Councillors decided to, in effect, grandfather sea can storage units which were installed on residential property in Castor before 2011.
In 2011, the town’s Land Use Bylaw specifically prohibited sea cans, the ubiquitous metal storage units, in Castor residential zones.
However, there was a grey area surrounding such units installed before 2011.
CAO Robblee presented councillors with several options on how to proceed with handling sea cans installed before 2011, including ordering every sea can in Castor residential zones removed regardless of install date, allowing sea cans installed before 2011 to remain but allow no more in residential zones and beginning a process of requiring owners to prove when their sea cans were installed.
It was estimated there are between four and six such sea cans in town. Councillors decided to in effect grandfather sea cans placed in residential areas in Castor before 2011.
Councillors decided to install a third speed bump on 45th Street after a public complaint.
The letter, signed by Wendy Soderstrom and Don Anderson, stated, “I write to request that some sort of speed deterrent be put in place to discourage speeding along (45th Street by White Goose and golf course). The speed at which people come across the highway and past the restaurant is, in my opinion, dangerous.
“In the past week or so there have been considerably more people with their kids and/or pets walking on this road and I’m pretty sure it would really suck to get hit by one of these idiots.
“While the speeding is dangerous, the lack of a muffler on these vehicles is just downright annoying.
“I know in the past there has been a speed bump at the south end of the road heading out of town but that really does not help much if you live on the north end of the road.”
Robblee stated administration was prepared to install another speed bump to see if that solves the problem.
Councillors eventually decided to let staff proceed with their plan and see if the public returns with more complaints.
Councillors read a report from the Castor and District Museum Society.
“In 2016 and 2017, rot and mould was causing the CPR freight shed floor to break and be unstable for the public to view.
A decision was made to build a shed eight feet longer and to upgrade the CPR house.
Artifacts were moved out into the machine shed and construction started in September 2018.
Construction and landscape is mostly finished and most artifacts are moved in.
“The approximate cost to finish the build was $289,000 and it is paid for. Funds came from a large donation grant from Alberta Recreation and Culture, Ross and Joan Embree, casino funds, a fundraiser with many donations everyone we offer a huge thank you.”
The letter also noted the museum opening has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter