Castor town council hesitated on a request from the local ambulance contractor which is seeking a larger space for their operation.
The decision to table East Central Ambulance Association’s (ECAA) request was made at the March 14 regular council meeting.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Christopher Robblee presented councillors with a report on ECAA’s request to move within the town-owned building the ambulance already resides in.
Robblee told councillors at the meeting ECAA would like to move over to the other side of the building which has larger bays and added that ECAA cannot afford to pay more rent.
While reviewing the request the CAO noted this item has been tabled before and that councillors toured the building so they could see the situation for themselves.
As well, Robblee stated that if the request was approved some renovation would be required to meet code, including installation of new doors for other tenants of that building who are unrelated to ECAA but during discussion councillors mentioned the Town of Castor can’t afford to renovate that building.
During discussion it was noted ECAA pays $700 a month rent currently; Robblee estimated if the town rented out that building the smaller section should fetch $1,000 to $1,500 a month rent while the larger section should fetch $1,500 to $2,000, so the town already subsidizes ECAA’s rent.
Mayor Richard Elhard noted the provincial government recently announced a considerable sum of money going to support ambulance services, and noted Castor was listed on the communities that would benefit from the funding but nobody knows how much money is coming.
“So that’s where we’re sitting,” said Elhard.
A motion to deny ECAA’s request was defeated by a 3 to 4 vote; councillors eventually voted by a 4 to 3 margin to table the issue to a future meeting.
The CAO reported the budget is not yet ready for approval as town staff are still awaiting certain information; he predicted it may be ready for council to look at at the end of March.
Mayor Elhard asked about the deficit on recreation operations which is forwarded to the County fo Paintearth.
Robblee responded that the recreation deficit is currently $60,853 and there is still lots to do so it will climb higher. He noted the annual deficit usually totals about $280,000.
Councillors passed third reading of the town’s tax incentive bylaw.
Robblee reminded councillors the bylaw’s intention is to provide three years of property tax freedom for new construction.
“It’s the same thing as replacement,” said Robblee, “as in frozen tax rate for three years.”
Robblee presented the councillors with the town’s newest borrowing bylaw, with the CAO noting that the Bank of Canada’s prime interest rate has gone up recently.
While he stated that the town is not required by law to have an overdraft, it’s considered a “best practice” and can be hugely useful in the event of an unforeseen emergency.
Councillors passed all four resolutions needed to bring the borrowing bylaw into effect.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter