Castor town council heard the local golf club is trying to do the best they can with the coronavirus pandemic hand they’ve been dealt.
The report was made at the Apr. 14 regular meeting of council.
The council meeting was conducted through social media in an effort to abide by social distancing measures.
Club president Todd Pawsey spoke to council electronically, noting the club has recently hired a new manager.
As the course is closed due to coronavirus control measures, Pawsey stated staff and volunteers are pitching in around the course to do maintenance and other work but noted he’s optimistic the golf season will go ahead at some time.
The course is investigating the federal government’s recent announcement of a wage subsidy program for organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pawsey stated the club is still interested in developing a formal operational agreement with the Town of Castor.
The agreement would clearly delineate who is responsible for what in the golf club operations.
“We’d like to be more cooperative than adversarial,” said Pawsey at the meeting.
During question and answer time, councillors asked about the clubhouse shingling work.
Pawsey said the hail damage is being addressed and the work is in discussion right now.
Town CAO Christopher Robblee expanded on it, noting talks with the insurance company are ongoing amidst a company staff member’s resignation, which slowed the project down.
Councillors accepted Pawsey’s presentation for information.
Public places closure
Robblee presented councillors with a report on closing public areas in the Town of Castor to address COVID-19 measures.
“In order to meet the coming requirements for physical distancing and any other public health orders, council should consider the closure of a number of public spaces: public playgrounds, public parks, public trails, campgrounds and the municipal owned golf course.
Up to 90 per cent of other municipalities have closed many if not all of their recreational facilities.
Saskatchewan has recently closed all their golf courses to the public, but allowed them to maintain their course in the event the season can be resumed.”
The CAO pointed out keeping certain places open, which requires town staff to monitor compliance, isn’t an option at all because the town doesn’t have enough staff to do that.
He said closing places like parks won’t be a huge cost to the town, requiring only signs, tape and chains.
Councillors decided to go with the first option Robblee listed, closing public parks, playgrounds and campgrounds until June 30.
Hiking trails remain open with social distancing requirements in place. The closure can be revisited any time council wishes.
Councillors decided to table a decision on snow removal from physician’s homes.
Currently, snow is plowed from physician’s homes as part of a policy’s priority one rules which states snow will be plowed when a certain depth is reached.
After a brief discussion, councillors decided to table the issue to a future meeting after more information is available.
Summer student staffing
Castor town council decided to follow the advice of its CAO and suspend hiring of two summer student positions for the Public Works and all Recreation department positions.
Robblee’s reasoning was based on the fact that virtually every recreation program and event is on hold by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent health emergency declaration.
The CAO stated at the meeting he’s already laid off two staff because of COVID-19 effects and decided to leave another opening vacant.
It seems municipalities are generally ceding that recreation programs won’t get going again before June 30.
However, a hiring freeze sometimes isn’t possible as the town must follow minimum service levels approved by council.
If a certain number of staff are required to meet service levels, the staffing must be followed.
He also warned that with fewer staff it will take longer for things like grass cutting to be completed.
While examining accounts payable listings for March 24 to April 14, a question was asked about a cheque issued in the amount of $250 to the Consort Lions Club.
CAO Robblee responded this was a refund for the provincial hockey game that was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and he noted a number of refunds had to be made for the same reason.
While discussing the monthly statement ending March 31, CAO Robblee told councillors the Town of Castor is not in an overdraft situation in the current month, but that within a month it is likely the town will have to use its overdraft.
He noted that even in the pandemic situation, it’s not unusual for the town to use its overdraft at this time of year.
He also stated that sometimes the cash statement doesn’t always match the budget; cash in the bank may appear differently from cash on paper.
Delayed due to pandemic
Councillors read a report from FCSS manager Mandy Fuller, which was a request for road closure to accommodate the “Walk a Mile” charity event June 3.
The event was intended to benefit the Association of Communities against Abuse.
However, it was noted at the council meeting that this event has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Robblee reminded councillors they could approve the event regardless, adding the provision that the event will be held on a later date.
That way, planners won’t have to wait for council approval later in the summer.
They unanimously agreed to approve the closure of Main Street to accommodate the event.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter