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Accountability needed in sponsorship deal

Posted on January 28, 2015 by Taber Times

Editor’s Note: In the Jan. 28 print version of The Taber Times, the word “accountability” in the headline for this editorial was spelled incorrectly. The Times apologizes for the error.

Sponsorship Connections needs to put Lisa Tchir on speed dial to find out exactly how to run a successful sponsorship program for naming rights of town-owned assets.

Sponsorship Connections was the firm the Town of Taber hired in November 2011 to secure sponsorship agreements to help offset the rising costs of recreation.

In more than three years, confirmed deals netted through Sponsorship Connections has resulted in a paltry $19,000 over three entities, barring any further deals that may be announced at February’s recreation board meeting.

According to a Jan. 13 story in The Mountaineer, Lisa Tchir who was contracted by the Town of Rocky Mountain House on Oct. 7 to facilitate the sponsorship program, has managed to secure $817,059 in naming-rights sponsorship spread over 16 different town-owned assets, money that will be used to offset the cost of building and maintaining some of the amenities.

A single person was contracted and has managed to outpace Sponsorship Connections 41 times in less than a 10th of the time for sponsorship dollars secured. This also comes at a time from October to January for Rocky Mountain House in which the price of oil has continued to plummet and the Alberta economy has suffered.

Throw in the fact the town investment hovers around $150,000 when you factor in the different phases of the agreement of asset identification and securing sponsorships to go along with ‘work’ expenses you have to wonder if the town should really start cracking down on accountability for Sponsorship Connections.

The similarities between Rocky Mountain House and Taber fit into the creed, the time of excuses for Sponsorship Connections is over.

Rocky Mountain House actually has fewer people than Taber, which also has the outlying M.D. of Taber area. Both economies have strong petroleum and agriculture bases.

Both can be considered ‘bedroom’ communities to some, with their proximity to cities in Lethbridge for Taber and Red Deer for Rocky Mountain House. While Sponsorship Connections has played the staffing card issue with their poor showing to date, contracting a single person out for Rocky Mountain House makes that argument weak.

For Cornfest 2014, volunteers were able to raise $110,000 in a few months, along with the volunteer-driven Taber Spray Park Committee being able to raise $300,000 in a similarly short time frame.

Scan the secured sponsors of town-owned assets in Rocky Mountain House and you will see similar businesses in Subway (multi-purpose hall), Ford (exercise and dance studio), Panago (arena change room), and Dairy Queen (fieldhouse change room), Taber possesses along with oil-service industries.

The question has to be asked…what is the disconnect with Sponsorship Connections?

While Sponsorship Connection’s agreement was scheduled to expire on June 2015, Tchir signed on for a one-year agreement to expire October 2015 and has already received some bids above the minimum amount requested for certain facilities. She still has another eight months to secure sponsorship agreements of the nine remaining opportunities out of the 25 that were identified.

Naming rights for each amenity were awarded for a period of 10 years. Participating businesses have agreed to pay a set amount annually over the same period, and will have first choice to renew the contract at the end of those 10 years.

Taber Recreation Board’s recommendation to town council to undergo this process was a noble one back in 2011, as the board wanted to make recreation affordable for every family and tried to stop escalating increases to user fees every year.

As Rocky Mountain House has shown, it can be done. It looks like the agreement with Sponsorship Connections will be extended until June 2016. The recreation board will be informed soon how an amendment to the original agreement has been reworked, in which it has been noted there will be no additional charges and fees.

Hopefully that includes the town not footing any ‘expenses’ Sponsorship Connections may have in conducting business with the contract in their travels.

For at this point, short of Sponsorship Connections hitting a grand slam of securing a healthy six-digit sponsorship deal by June 2016, the company’s very reputation is on the line where it looks like it will be a break-even prospect at best for the town.

With only $19,000 in sponsorship money confirmed in a process that is well into its fourth year, even the most bright-eyed optimist must have stormclouds of frustration over their heads at this point.
Whether it is the cost of building new amenities or maintaining existing buildings etc., the message is the same for both Taber and Rocky Mountain House in sponsorship pushes, to make recreation affordable to families and take some of the burden off your regular taxpayer.

It is understandable there are no guarantees in business, but that does not mean the accountability degree lessens any.

In fact, when tax dollars are concerned, one could argue the level of accountability rises.

The town should not be on the hook for one cent more to Sponsorship Connections in any capacity as it looks to fulfill the time frame of its commitment until a projected June 2016.

There are rumblings on coffee row and within the Taber Recreation Board at this point, if it is even worth the headache of frustration to continue. Barring a miracle coming down the home stretch, it looks like the Town of Taber will not be giving Sponsorship Connections a reference on its resume.

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