By Trevor Busch
Town council has declined the nomination of William Ferguson for the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Taber Award.
Taber and District Chamber of Commerce receives annual nominations for a number of awards to recognize exemplary businesses and individuals in Taber and area. The Spirit of Taber Award is awarded to businesses and organizations that “serve and promote the community… (and) whose examples demonstrate excellence in the enthusiastic support and promotion of our community.”
Ferguson, who is deceased, donated $2.4 million to the town through his estate in 2017. Of those funds, following closed session discussion in July 2017 town council voted unanimously to allocate $900,000 to the redevelopment of the Trout Pond area, and the $1.5 million balance for the relocation and construction of a new fire hall building to be named for Ferguson.
“I thought William Ferguson, because of his large donation to the town, would be a worthy recipient of that,” said Coun. Mark Garner at the Nov. 13 regular meeting. “That’s why I approached administration to maybe put forward a nomination to the chamber from council.”
According to administration, the recent donation from the estate of William Ferguson “demonstrates exemplary generosity and caring for the community and its citizenry. Therefore, a posthumous nomination for William Ferguson to this award is proposed.”
Coun. Louie Tams put forward a motion approving the nomination, but further debate ensued prior to a vote being registered.
“I’m not on the chamber, and being a past recipient of this award, does that put a bump in the chamber’s plans?” questioned Coun. Joe Strojwas. “Because they like to have that person there, they like do some fanfare, and a speech, and then the following year that individual that got nominated is expected to buy the table for next year’s recipient of that award. Does that put some complication onto the chamber then to spend some funds to cover that being that this person is deceased?”
Garner argued the town should feel obligated to put forward the nomination.
“I can’t answer that on behalf of the chamber, you’d have to talk to them, but I think they have the funds to do that if need be. This is kind of a unique situation. I don’t think ever in the past we’ve had someone offer that large of a cash donation to the Town of Taber. I think we would be unwise not to recognize him publicly.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop wasn’t so sure.
“I think all things considered we’ve recognized Mr. Ferguson publicly many times favourably for his generous donation.”
Highlighting other donations that are made throughout the community, Strojwas was unsure if council should be singling out one individual for recognition.
“Just as a follow up, there’s been huge bequeaths made to the Taber and District Health Foundation that operates here in the town. So I don’t know that we should be setting a precedent for this because the Taber and District Health Foundation gets hundreds of thousands of dollars bequeathed, so how do we separate one from the other and judge on who should or shouldn’t get this award? I don’t know that this is something that council should really be delving into.”
CAO Cory Armfelt was unperturbed by any prospect of a precedent being set.
“I don’t think council should be worried about a precedent. If council wishes, we can put a nomination together and submit it and the chamber of commerce can go through their evaluation process. It’s an act by council. Council has the ability to do that if so chooses.”
Strojwas suggested that public discussion of a nomination might serve to force the chamber’s hand when considering other individuals or organizations that might be nominated.
“Further to this, generally these nominations are done in secrecy so you don’t know who has or who hasn’t been nominated. We’re making this public, so it puts the chamber in kind of a spot where the town is doing this, we can’t go against them. You don’t know the people that were nominated for these different awards, and here we’re doing this in public — I don’t know if this is kosher or not.”
Referencing the town’s planned fire hall relocation utilizing Ferguson’s estate, Coun. Jack Brewin was satisfied this honour should be sufficient.
“I agree with Councillor Strojwas. Hopefully in the near future we’ll have a building that displays his name very prominently.”
Coun. Garth Bekkering would also side with Strojwas and Brewin on the idea, and Tams withdrew his motion prior to a vote.
Administration’s recommended motion — which was ultimately declined — asked council to endorse the nomination of William Ferguson for the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Taber Award, and to direct administration to submit the award application.
The deadline for the 2018 awards is Dec. 11, 2018.