By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber’s failed recreation sponsorship contract has received a one-year lease on life, but a split vote suggests not all councillors are satisfied with the performance of Sponsorship Connections.
At their Feb. 9 meeting, town council voted 4-3 to accept the staff report regarding the recreation sponsorship program and authorized Mayor Henk De Vlieger and CAO Greg Birch to execute the contract amendment presented reflecting the term being extended to June 30, 2016, to allow for Sponsorship Connections to focus on sales efforts outside of the town and M.D. of Taber.
Coun.(s) Andrew Prokop, Laura Ross-Giroux, Rick Popadynetz and Randy Sparks voted in favour of the motion. Mayor Henk De Vlieger and Coun.(s) Joe Strojwas and Jack Brewin were opposed.
Refocusing their efforts on sponsorship opportunities outside of the region will not bear fruit for the community, according to Strojwas.
“Outside decision making processes are all fine and dandy, but outside decisions processes are usually made by a local connection. If you’re going to be dealing with the Royal Bank, decisions being made in Toronto or wherever, it’s still the local branch manager that’s going to push to get that developed. This thing about working with international companies — some international company that has no connection to Taber isn’t going to sponsor something in Taber. We really have to work with our inside connections here in town, working with people, local companies, local managers. I’m really not for extending that contract on this basis.”
An initial motion brought forward by Strojwas, which had proposed accepting the staff report as information and not extending the contract for a further year, was defeated by town council in 4-3 vote.
Coun.(s) Prokop, Ross-Giroux, Popadynetz and Sparks voted in opposition to the motion. Mayor De Vlieger and Coun.(s) Strojwas and Brewin voted in favour.
“I’m not in favour of extending this either, especially if they’ve decided to go after international markets,” said Brewin.
Through a contract with Partnership Group, the Recreation Sponsorship program kicked off Phase 1 in November 2011 with development of inventory and valuation. The Town of Taber invested $61,819.45 in Phase 1.
Subsequently, the town entered into a contract with Sponsorship Connections for Phase 2 for sponsorship sales for a term of three years. To date sponsorships sales are $21,200 compared to the Phase 2 investment of $37,659.32.
“I’m sure this has been a great disappointment having not lived up to expectations,” said Ross-Giroux. “I don’t have any objections to continuing the contract. To be a bit facetious, I think they should extend the contract until they have at least matched what we invested.”
Sponsorship Connections has since proposed to extend their term to June 30, 2016.
Sparks launched a verbal salvo against any comparison between Taber’s situation with regard to the sponsorship contract and the example of Rocky Mountain House’s successful sponsorship efforts, which was referenced by Popadynetz.
“It’s very hard to compare Rocky Mountain House with what Sponsorship Connections is trying to do in Taber. It’s much easier to raise funds for a project rather than putting your name on a park bench. You can’t compare the two, it’s not even close to being the same, and so we shouldn’t even be discussing it in the same breath, because it’s not the same.”
Taber’s sponsorship program was supported originally in anticipation of it generating “new” revenues and easing the impact of increased operating costs on user fees. According to administration, extending the program by one year will not impact staff resources.
“Council of the day decided to support the recreation board of the day in granting funding to get this thing going, with the total reason being trying to keep recreation fees down,” said Sparks. “It has not come to fruition as the rec board and others in the community wish it would. The people on the rec board at this time are very disappointed with what has gone on with Sponsorship Connections, the funding that has been generated — which has been next to nothing — and the goal of the recreation board has not been accomplished.”
Comments made by Sparks in no uncertain terms at the most recent Taber Recreation Board meeting suggested the town councillor would have been rigidly opposed to voting in favour of extending Sponsorship Connection’s contract for a further year.
In a surprise reversal with regard to contract extention, Sparks discarded his previous opposition and instead defended the merits of extending the contract for a further year.
“At our rec board meeting previously, even though everyone is disappointed in what’s going on, it’s not going to cost the town one cent to extend this for another year. If nothing happens, then the town is out nothing. In another year, the rec board can make a recommendation to council saying this isn’t working, let’s get rid of it. But it’s not going to cost the town anything to carry on with this and let them try for another year. By going after corporate, out-of-town contracts, I understand that it may not happen — but nothing is happening in town either. By extending this for another year, it’s not going to cost anything, and maybe they’ll smarten up and get after it, because Taber has actually been egg on the face for Sponsorship Connections.”
Strojwas suggested the Town of Taber should dispense with the current contract and move forward with a do-it-ourselves approach.
“I see a downside as far as time. We’re going to lose another year. The sonner we can bring this contract to an end, the sooner we can re-organize and go ahead.”
Popadynetz, while in support of extending the contract for one year, savaged the reputation of Sponsorship Connections with regard to the Town of Taber.
“Them having no one available as a salesman, was one ball they dropped. The second ball was not getting large amounts of sponsorship — their high-level idea was to get Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart — they didn’t get anybody. The third ball was the spray park — they used the spray park as an example of why they could not get funding. I’d like to see this go through, and hold their feet to the fire for one year, but let it be known across Alberta that they came to Taber and gave us no sponsorship — everyone in Alberta should know that Sponsorship Connections didn’t do anything for our town.”