Ponoka County is stepping up with financial backing to help get another agricultural facility to compete for more business.
At their meeting on Sept. 24, council approved moving forward on a deal that would provide $200,000 annually for three years so that the Rimbey Agricultural Society can hire a manager for their Agrim facility. The money would also go toward paying for the society’s loan payments on the facility as well as other expenses.
Consultant Ken Kendall, hired by the county last year to provide guidance through an upgrade of the facility, along with Rimbey Ag board member John Trenson appeared at the meeting to answer any questions about taking this next step.
In August, council agreed a manager would help, but requested financial information from the society and wanted assurances the county could be involved in the hiring process as well as that the society was okay with the arrangement.
Kendall explained there has been several challenges the facility has faced, weather being one of them, in being able to attract more bookings for 2019.
“Unfortunately where we are now is that the potential of this facility is not anywhere near being met right now because of the volunteer situation,” Kendall said, noting it’s hard to actively promote it when volunteers are running things.
“We are at the crossroads where we truly want to see the facility and grounds used to their full value and maximum impact.”
He added that one suggestion was to look at three days initially with full time as a goal depending on more bookings and events.
Coun. Mark Matejka liked the idea, while also stating that someone else, with differing skills than the manager, could be hired to provide any extra help.
Trenson added the issue has been monitoring the changeovers and the communication between people, so it would be nice to have someone there during and between events to coordinate and keep things running smoothly.
As for concerns about oversight, Kendall noted the board is more than happy to hand over the day-to-day operation to a manager and take a couple steps back.
“We just need to find the right person, someone who has some business acumen yet is also comfortable with setting up and running events and doing some marketing,” he said.
In discussing the subject, Cutforth told council that Keyera’s plant expansion provided the increase in property taxes to enable the maximum $600,000 commitment.
Kendall and Trenson did agree to have a non-voting spot available for a county council representative on the society’s sub-committee that oversees the operation.
The agreement would be reviewed after three years.