By Greg Price
Taber Recreation Board is demanding a little more personal touch when it comes to being updated on the progression of Sponsorship Connections.
Sponsorship Connections is the firm the Town of Taber hired in November 2011 to secure sponsorship agreements of town-owned assets to help offset the rising costs of recreation.
In more than three years, confirmed deals netted through Sponsorship Connections has resulted in $19,000 over three entities, barring any further deals that may be announced at March’s recreation board meeting.
“We are here in February and I do not know where we are at, but I would really like to see this guys here in March,” said Luke Wijna, recreation board chairman at the Taber Recreation Board’s Feb. 5 meeting. “I would like to see them sit here face to face. No more over-the-phone stuff. This has been dragging on and dragging on.”
Aline Holmen, recreation manager for the Town of Taber informed the recreation board, administration has been working with Sponsorship Connections on the language in extending Sponsorship Connections for a year, up until June 2016, with no additional costs to the town.
“We do recognize it hasn’t been working out as we intended it to work out,” said Holmen.
Recreation board members had copies of The Mountaineer article cited in a Taber Times Editorial entitled ‘Accountability needed in sponsorship deal’ from Jan. 28.
The article and editorial noted Lisa Tchir was contracted by the Town of Rocky Mountain House on Oct. 7 to facilitate its own sponsorship initiative in which she had already been able to secure $815,059 in naming-rights sponsorship spread over 16 different town owned assets over a period of 10 years combined. A single person was contracted and has managed to outpace Sponsorship Connections 41 times in a tenth of the time for sponsorship dollars secured.
“Ultimately, the decision will be up to town council in which direction they want to go with that. Part of the delay here has been he (Sponsorship Connections) has been gone for two weeks in January. In December, there were bigger projects going on. You can take that however you may,” said Holmen. “There’s talk of getting a community member involved with this group in addressing some of the issues this board had.”
Recreation board member and M.D. of Taber councillor Merrill Harris was aware of the upfront six-digit investment the Town of Taber made with Sponsorship Connections which included asset identification, but inquired what the ongoing cost was to continue to do business with the company if the contract is to be extended to June 2016.
“There are no ongoing costs, those costs were paid upfront. We paid commission upfront for the first year and when they worked to get the sponsorship dollars back in, once they got a certain dollar amount, once they hit that mark (estimation of $120,000) they would get the commission going again,” replied Holmen. “At the time it seemed like a good idea, but maybe that was part of the problem because there’s nothing really there to motivate them and we know they have had some staffing challenges. We are trying to come up with some different ways to attack it from a different angle. At this point, we either have to make that decision or council has to make the decision to drop the whole program and look at something else.”
Recreation board member and Taber town councillor Randy Sparks found little weight in the Sponsorship Connections assertion of having staffing issues as a reason to its poor performance to date in its contract with the town.
“Irregardless of staffing issues, that’s not an excuse. They are under contract with the Town of Taber to perform, and the performance level has been severely lacking,” said Sparks. “If they have staffing issues, get it taken care of and get Taber back on the board. If they want accountability, there is no accountability over the phone. They have to come in front of this committee and answer some questions.”