Castor town council decided it will remove its arena ice surface if the provincial government doesn’t give a clear timeline for the lifting of pandemic restrictions before Feb. 1.
The decision was made at the Jan. 25 regular meeting of council held via Facebook.
A report from Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Christopher Robblee pointed out there were ongoing questions surrounding the ice surface and cost to the taxpayers compelled councillors to make a decision.
“The Castor arena serves local junior and senior hockey, has hockey programming and regular open skating,” stated Robblee in his report.
“However, since the introduction of the new restrictions all activity inside this facility has been suspended.
“Further, it is not apparent from either the Government of Alberta or regular sporting associations when such restrictions will be lifted.
“Even if restrictions are lifted, there is no indications as to what degree such programming will be allowed.
“Considering the average cost to staff and maintenance of such structures, there is a significant cost savings in closing such a facility.
“Council should keep in mind that our current budget already accounts for keeping the arena open but will show a greater deficit as no program funding is being generated.
“Council should also consider balancing the need for operational savings versus the need for social benefit in the community.
“Other facilities are considering closing, while others indicate, since recreation already runs at a loss, two more months of waiting will not break their budgets.
“The decision to close and remove the ice in the arena would make it virtually impossible to restart from a cost standpoint.
“As for both the start-up and shut-down, certificates must be acquired and ice placed or removed.
“As such, a decision to close would close the Castor arena for the 2020/2021 season, regardless of any changes to the restrictions.
“Administration did have the conversation about arena closure with the Recreation Board and they generally recommended council wait until the end of January and then proceed with closure.”
Robblee stated the town pays about $15,000 per month to staff to operate the arena.
He noted if the arena is shut down and without staff, those costs drop to about $2,000 a month.
During a verbal presentation, Recreation Director Natasha Bozek noted some municipalities were keeping their arenas open, some were closing, including Clive and Hardisty.
Bozek stated it was in the community’s best interest to keep the skating ice in the arena to the end of the week of Jan. 25 because it had been understood the provincial government might be making an announcement that week about re-opening recreational facilities.
Bozek stated if no announcement was made and no clear direction given from the provincial government, her recommendation was to begin taking the ice out of the arena on Feb. 1.
Robblee added that town staff had the impression for weeks that a recreation announcement was coming but nothing ever happened.
During discussion councillors stated that the town has to be realistic about the prospects of the arena opening before winter ends, but should still give the provincial government a chance to make an announcement.
Coun. Rod Zinger asked how pre-paid ice rental would be handled.
Bozek responded that only the Cyclones pre-paid their ice rental, and it will be refunded on a prorated basis.
Mayor Richard Elhard stated the cloudy situation that’s been ongoing for weeks has been frustrating.
“Like I said, the goal posts keep moving,” said Elhard.
Councillors eventually passed a motion that the town would remove skating ice from the arena beginning Feb. 1 unless a re-opening of recreational facilities announcement was made by the provincial government.
Readers should note that, as of the writing of this story Jan. 28, no such announcement had been made.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter