By Trevor Busch
Town council has signed off on providing the Taber Exhibition Association (TEA) with a loan for construction of a warm-up facility as an addition to the Taber Agri-Plex.
According to the TEA, the addition is estimated to cost $214,900 for the building, and a further $18,000 for the ground work, for a total of $232,900 (plus GST). The TEA were requesting to borrow the funds with the assistance of the town.
“The warm-up pen would be an additional building to the north of the existing building,” said Sherry Crombez, as part of a delegation from the TEA to council’s Nov. 28 regular meeting. “Winter is one of our busiest time periods when people are doing events in the arena, people like to warm up their horses because horses need to be warmed up. It would be used to warm up horses, it would be used to store additional equipment, and it would be used for barrel racing, to run it through. Then in June we have a big 4-H show and sale, and we’ve run out of stall room. We would have the ability to bring in portable stalls. The warm-up pen would be a multi-use building.”
At their May 24 regular meeting, town council had authorized the Taber Exhibition Association to begin the project and provided support for obtaining grant funding.
“We compete with Brooks, they just added a warm-up pen a few years ago,” said Crombez. “We used to have barrel racing every other weekend, and that’s been kind of taken away from us. Magrath has built a warm-up pen, Cardston has a warm-up pen. Fort Macleod just built a warm-up pen. They all have these warm-up pens, Taber’s the last one. We’ve had to cut our rates to reflect that we don’t have a warm-up pen.”
According to information provided by Southwest Design and Construction, the project scope includes a 50’x122’x22’ monoslope pre-engineered steel building package, as well as two overhead doors and two man doors. Designed to be an unheated space, a standing seam roof is recommended with a minimum layer of insulation for condensation control.
Finance director and acting CAO Devon Wannop indicated the terms of the loan could be made through the Alberta Capital Finance Authority (ACFA), or through the town’s capital reserves.
“We borrow on their behalf, because we own the building. Historically, when people borrow from us they’ve made the payments for that debenture.”
However, Wannop addressed the concern of Mayor Henk DeVlieger that borrowing through the ACFA in this case does come with some disadvantages.
“It could, however if we borrow through ACFA, they’re really stringent on pre-payment, so that would definitely need to be considered before we get go ahead with a loan. Because there’s multiple different ways — we could not borrow, and still give them a loan at ACFA rates and take it out of our reserves.”
DeVlieger asked if it might be more advantageous to seek a loan through a traditional banking institution.
“If you went to a conventional lender, it would probably be a higher rate than what ACFA would give, but then there wouldn’t be penalties and pre-payment concerns,” said Wannop.
The TEA is waiting to hear the outcome of a CFEP grant proposal with regard to the project, which might be confirmed as early as January 2017, added Crombez, who has been seeking the assistance of Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter.
“He’s been to our board meeting, and he was really impressed because he actually said to us we’re the only ag society building that is basically operating at a profit,” said Crombez. “It’s because we have volunteers that spend enormous amounts of time down there putting on stuff, putting on events to bring people to town, and then we have a management team that is just awesome.”
The warm-up pen is needed, according to Crombez, to service the needs of barrel racing events among other concerns.
“Our arena’s too short, so when the barrel racers come at the end, they have to stop. What it does is it makes an alleyway that goes north, that they can run in and out, just like they do in (Las) Vegas. That’s their slow down and their start up.”
Later in the meeting, town council returned to the issue in order to make a decision.
“I’m kind of in favour of proceeding with helping the Taber Exhibition Association out,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “It’s a worthwhile entity in town, and it needs some upgrading. I think we need to support them.”
Just where the needed funds necessary for the project to move forward would be secured — either through borrowing or town reserves — was open to debate.
“It’s our building, so we would have to be the ones that borrow. From ACFA, we do get great rates,” said Wannop. “Here’s the thing. If they give us a big lump sum payment, we wouldn’t be able to just put that right on a loan through ACFA, because they don’t allow pre-payments, and they have a stop-loss interest calculation that they do on all of their loans. So if we borrow conventionally, we might get not as good an interest rate, but then we would be able to make lump sum payments.”
Coun. Randy Sparks was in support of a project which will remain essentially cost neutral for the Town of Taber.
“It’s a very worthwhile project, but it’s cost neutral to the Town of Taber. As long as its cost neutral — because it is a town building, they do a very good job taking care of it out there, and they’re just trying to enhance the building, and that’s awesome.”
Whatever funding method selected by council, Wannop was careful to weigh the pros and cons on both sides from the perspective of the Town of Taber.
“So we either borrow, or we don’t borrow. We could take it from capital reserves and they could just pay us the amount we would have paid ACFA, and then we wouldn’t have to borrow, and wouldn’t have to go through the borrowing bylaw. If we take from capital reserves, it would obviously decrease the $6 million that we have, however any lump sum payment that they make would obviously offset that. We would still charge interest, however we wouldn’t have to borrow because we wouldn’t make payments, we would just receive payments.”
DeVlieger was in favour of taking the path of least resistance.
“The most practical way, taking from one pocket to another pocket, what makes the most sense. To me, flexibility makes the most sense, in this case because of maybe some grants coming.”
Wannop reiterated the facts as he saw them.
“The most flexibility would either be not getting it from ACFA, or just taking it out of capital reserves.”
Following debate, council voted 5-1 to support the Taber Exhibition Association by supplying them with a loan from capital reserves (at ACFA rates) to cover the cost of a warm-up arena, with payments and interest being made by the TEA over a 25 year term. Coun. Rick Popadynetz opposed the motion, while Coun. Jack Brewin was absent.