As the landowner, the city will always have a keen interest in the feasibility of Westerner Park, Mayor Tara Veer said Monday. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff).

As the landowner, the city will always have a keen interest in the feasibility of Westerner Park, Mayor Tara Veer said Monday. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff).

‘Strong involvement’ in Westerner Park operations is warranted, says Red Deer’s Mayor

City council wants a more effective governance model

A tighter partnership between the City of Red Deer and Westerner Park was advocated by several councillors after hearing the results of a Deloitte sustainability audit.

Given the unexpected bad news city council received late in 2019 about Westerner Park’s finances, “it’s imperative that the city maintain a strong involvement, or in certain respects, an even stronger involvement” with the not-for-profit exhibition association, said Mayor Tara Veer on Monday.

She noted the City of Red Deer will always be “the de facto financial backstop” for Westerner Park because it’s the landowner.

Therefore, the key for a more secure future — in which local taxpayers are not bailing the organization out of a crisis — lies in creating a more effective governance model and reviewing legal agreements between the municipality and Westerner Park, added Veer.

Coun. Tanya Handley was a city council representative on the Westerner Park board of governance and noticed “in the past, there was an us-versus-the-city feeling at the table…

“Those days are done,” Handley added — since both the city and Westerner Park officials have to find positive ways to move forward.

ALSO READ:

David Marsden: Red Deer city council makes the right moves

‘It’s a long road’ — auditor’s recommendations

The Deloitte auditors did not recommend that the city take over Westerner Park’s operations, because of the government grant opportunities that are open to non-profits.

But they came up with 35 suggestions to get the cash-strapped fairgrounds back on more solid financial footing. These include getting the City of Red Deer to sharing its staff expertise in capital asset maintenance and in marketing with the not-for-profit agricultural organization.

Westerner Park was found to have inadequate plans for the future upgrades of its buildings and infrastructure. And efforts to market the buildings were also found lacking.

Coun. Frank Wong expressed concern about the City of Red Deer stepping in to fill these knowledge gaps at Westerner Park, saying municipal employees were recently downsized to deal with a COVID-19-impacted economy and less provincial funding.

Wong wondered if helping Westerner Park will mean more city staff will have to be hired.

Veer acknowledged creating capital maintenance plans for Westerner Park could create a “capacity issue” at the city. But she feels there isn’t a choice, since the community needs a solvent Westerner Park to keep generating tourism and economic benefits — and the city doesn’t want to keep propping it up in future.

On the positive side, she said council has already discussed forming a new committee to market the city to event holders. It will be made up of various representatives, including from Westerner Park.

Deloitte auditors suggested loans instead of grants be provided if Westerner Park needs future city assistance, so there’s a hope the money will be repaid.

So far, the city has provided $3 million in grants to the organization, which should keep it going through the first quarter of 2021.

Coun. Lawrence Lee suggested city officials attend the next annual general meeting of Westerner Park to offer assistance in selecting board members who bring a wide array of technical, business and marketing skills.

City councillors generally praised the thoroughness of the audit — as well as the positive attitudes of Westerner Park’s new CEO, Mike Olesen, and board chair Janice Wing, who have started to make changes.

Next, city councillors will sit down with Westerner Park officials to discuss matters of governance and information sharing.

Editor’s note: This article was edited on Nov. 3 to reflect the number of recommendations in the report.

Red Deer City Council

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, accompanied by Premier Jason Kenney, in March when the pandemic had just started in Alberta. On Wednesday, Kenney said COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in three phases in the province. Photo by Government of Alberta
COVID-19 vaccine available to Albertans in January – distributed in 3 phases

Vaccine won’t be widely available until the fall of 2021

The G.H. Dawe Community Centre in Red Deer is getting a twinned ice rink, spray park and other upgrades as part of the 2021 capital budget. (Advocate file photo).
Red Deer city council approves $43.3 million upgrade to G.H. Dawe Centre

In a 7-2 vote, the majority on council felt it’s about time

Olds College received 10 Angus heifer calves, donated by The Canadian Red Angus Promotion Society. (File photo)
Olds College and TELUS to develop new agriculture technologies

TELUS Agriculture is investing $1 million in the Olds College Smart Farm.… Continue reading

Const. Jason Tress leaves Red Deer provincial court. An RCMP officer, whose name is under a publication ban, testified Tress sexually assaulted her at a party in 2012. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Former Red Deer RCMP officer denies sexually assaulting colleague

Former Const. Jason Tress took the stand in his own defence on Wednesday

A new public washroom, proposed for downtown Red Deer, was tabled in the city’s 2021 budget discussions so more questions can be answered about the proposal. (Advocate file photo).
Proposed downtown public washroom is stalled in 2021 budget discussions

More questions need to be answered about the $511,500 project

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Goals galore for Ronaldo, Giroud, Neymar in Champions League

Goals galore for Ronaldo, Giroud, Neymar in Champions League

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins is seen at a media availablity to introduce new pitcher Shun Yamaguchi in Toronto on January 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Jays ‘prepared’ if things pick up on free agency and trade fronts this off-season

Jays ‘prepared’ if things pick up on free agency and trade fronts this off-season

Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, left, and teammate Taylor Austin are shown during training in Whistler, B.C., in this undated handout photo. Montreal Allouettes running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is used to pysching himself up to sprint down a field, evading a crush of muscled men the entire way. But mentally preparing for his latest venture required bracing for a whole new set of anxieties. As he got ready to hop in a bobsleigh for the first time, Murray-Lawrence knew he'd be zipping down an icy track faster than cars are allowed to travel down most highways. Murrary-Lawrence, 27, is one of three CFL players who joined the national bobsleigh team after the league canceled its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Shaquille Murray-Lawrence
Sliding into a new sport: CFLers turn to bobsled after football season wiped out

Sliding into a new sport: CFLers turn to bobsled after football season wiped out

North Carolina State defensive lineman Daniel Joseph (99) celebrates with linebacker Isaiah Moore after Moore forced a Liberty safety during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Raleigh, N.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Hyman, The News & Observer via AP, Pool
Canadian defensive lineman Daniel Joseph enjoying a banner first campaign at NC State

Canadian defensive lineman Daniel Joseph enjoying a banner first campaign at NC State

A Canadian Pacific Railway employee walks along the side of a locomotive in a marshalling yard in Calgary on May 16, 2012. CP says an investigation is underway following the release of a video showing one of the company's trains running over dozens of pronghorn antelope in southwestern Saskatchewan.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CP investigating after video shows train running over pronghorn antelope herd

CP investigating after video shows train running over pronghorn antelope herd

Bullet holes from 2014 attack on Parliament Hill to be left untouched in renovations

Bullet holes from 2014 attack on Parliament Hill to be left untouched in renovations

Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, holds a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020., to announce additional funds to improve access to safe drinking water on reserves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Boil-water advisories at First Nations communities to remain past March 2021: feds

Boil-water advisories at First Nations communities to remain past March 2021: feds

Wilner Cayo, centre, and Frantz Andre attend a demonstration outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's constituency office in Montreal on May 23, 2020, where they called on the government to give residency status to migrant workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Refugee advocates criticize Canada’s decision to resume deportations during COVID-19

Refugee advocates criticize Canada’s decision to resume deportations during COVID-19

Most Read