A former County councillor is throwing her hat back into the ring to represent Foothills Div. 3 residents.
Barb Castell, who was Div. 3 councillor from 2007 to 2013, said she wants to bring her experience and commitment back to the council table with an eye on serving her community and the County as a whole.
“As a councillor and a resident of Div. 3 of more than 40 years, I know you have to work as a team with other councillors for the betterment of not just your area, but the entire Foothills County,” said Castell.
She said it’s more than just attending council meetings and being part of boards and committees. The role means listening to residents and communicating with them, answering telephone calls and emails and bringing concerns or ideas back to council and administration.
Being involved in the Div. 3 community is nothing new to the former councillor, who said she has been volunteering with organizations like the Millarville Racing and Agricultural Society for decades.
“I was a past board member and I volunteer at all the events, from racing to the fair to the rodeo and the marathon,” said Castell, adding she also works year-round to volunteer with the kids’ only area at the Christmas market.
“I love it – it’s sort of a hub of our community.”
Castell said her dedication to the Millarville community lends itself well to representing the entire Foothills on some of the big-picture issues faced by the County.
Front and centre is the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board, which she said is not a new problem, just an old issue with a new name.
One of her predecessors on council, Greg Thomson, once fought against a Calgary regional planning commission and after it folded the Calgary Regional Partnership came next, during Castell’s terms on council.
“Our council and staff attended meeting after meeting after meeting in Cochrane for the whole time I was on council,” she said. “This venture took time and resources away from our staff, away from council when they should be focusing on the job they were hired and elected to do.”
The CRP folded in early 2018, and was followed by the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB), which Castell said is not the collaborative effort it promises to be.
“The premise of this so-called partnership is for Calgary to decide how the 10 members of the CMRB will move forward in the future, with Calgary having the veto power vote,” she said. “That voting structure is especially concerning to me.”
She’s ready to join the County’s fight against the board, noting the intermunicipal committees (IMC) with surrounding municipalities like Okotoks and High River have been successful in the past.
The IMC model also comes at a much lower price tag for taxpayers, she said.
“Right now, Foothills County doesn’t implement a business tax,” said Castell. “With this CMRB, taxes may go up. That, in turn, has a trickle-down effect, which will discourage businesses and industry in Foothills and they’ll go elsewhere.
“Why would they want to come here with that kind of burden?”
Rural crime is another hot issue she’d like to get to work on, especially after speaking with residents and neighbours who said they have been robbed more than once.
While rural crime watches and additional patrol cars in rural areas have helped, she said it still doesn’t seem to be enough.
“The concern is still there,” said Castell.
Her other top issues include planning regionally for water solutions that help all partners including Foothills, Okotoks, High River, Longview, Turner Valley, Black Diamond, and hamlets within the County; working on road and traffic safety, particularly in Div. 3 where many roads have poor sightlines; and enforcing the Dark Skies bylaw.
Castell sat on the dark skies committee when the movement first began in 2007.
Many residents have complained about light trespass impacting quality of life on their property, and there is growing concern for the work being done at Rothney Observatory, she said.
“They do a lot of research at that facility,” said Castell. “It’s not just looking at the stars. They have identified asteroids heading toward Earth. This kind of information is important, and the lighter it gets around there the less they can do.”
She has also fielded concerns from residents about how difficult it can be to get things done in the County, and while Castell said that could be for a number of reasons, she would like to be at the table to ask questions and find out why and whether systems can be improved.
“I hope I can work with council and staff to find solutions for these people, to expediate the help,” she said.