Westerner Park is facing financial challenges. (Advocate file photo).

Westerner Park asks the city for up to $3.5 million to continue operating

The city has already given Westerner Park $1 million in emergency funding

Westerner Park is asking the City of Red Deer for an operating grant of between $1 million and $3.5 million to continue operations beyond August.

The request, which follows financial challenges at the non-profit exhibition facility, will be discussed at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

The city assumed temporary financial oversight of Westerner Park in January in an effort to ensure its long-term success.

This isn’t the first time the city has helped out with the park’s cash flow problems.

Earlier this year, on recommendation from administration, city council approved a one-time emergency operating grant of $1 million for Westerner Park.

This was done behind closed doors, at that time, due to legal considerations, states a release on the city’s website.

The city release states the previous grant was necessary to help maintain some stability at Westerner Park, until the city could investigate and assess the financial situation.

This grant was provided for short-term operations of Westerner Park. The city applied terms and conditions for the use of the grant, including financial oversight when Westerner Park used any of the funds.

According to information on the city’s website, Westerner Park’s is basing its second request on its current cash flow projections, saying it’s needed for its facilities to continue operating beyond mid-August.

City administration is now recommending a $2-million grant, which is expected to provide sufficient cash flow for Westerner Park to keep going into 2021.

If approved by council, this grant would not have an impact on the tax rate, as it is a one-time grant that would come out of city reserves. The funds would be accessed by Westerner Park, based on the city’s continued oversight of its cash flow.

“As a pivotal community partner, this grant is the best option to ensure some sustainability at Westerner Park while they determine the full effects of COVID-19 on their operations,” said city manager Allan Seabrooke.

“If approved by city council, this grant will enable Westerner Park to continue operations that bolster community life and economic development in our city and region. It also allows the city and Westerner Park to continue the work of understanding the financial situation and solidifying the financial stability of the organization.”

Westerner Park has continued to decrease operational costs since January 2020, says the city. The majority of cost reductions have been from staff layoffs and additional reductions in hours.

In addition to renegotiating key contracts, Westerner Park has also eliminated all nonessential expenses.

If the city doesn’t provide financial assistance to Westerner Park, and no other form of financial assistance is found, Westerner Park will need to evaluate its options, which may include moving to receivership and discontinuing operations.

Alternatively, the city would need to take over Westerner Park’s operations.

Red Deer City Council

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