County no longer seeks equal PAECS representation

After a unanimous vote among county councillors, council is not seeking equal representation on the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society

After a unanimous vote among county councillors, council is not seeking equal representation on the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society (PAECS) board — to match the Stampede Association and the Ponoka Agriculture Society — and is content with only one representative.

Newly elected county rep for the PAECS board Doug Weir feels council returning their support to the board with just one representative won’t overtax it in any way. “I think it’s (Calnash Ag Event Centre) all for the good of Ponoka and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to Ponoka in the last 15 years.”

He feels it was unfortunate the differences between the organizations that made up the PAECS board became an unforeseen problem, but the board working there now is running the operation smoothly alongside those governing PAECS members.

“I think we need to have representation on the board, I don’t think we need to have equal representation and I think we need to go back and say ‘hey, we’ll assist you when we can,’” said Weir.

The previous county council was at an impasse after withdrawing all finances and resources from the centre until equal representation was granted.

“Where it was left, the county withdrew all its ongoing support, both financially and with our work sources until such time that this representation issue was resolved one way or the other,” said county CAO Charlie Cutforth.

He believes there is outstanding work the PAECS board would like the county to do. “Our concern has been and is, strategically, to try and accomplish that.

Precedent shows the county has a history of supporting different community organizations, churches and community halls. However, Cutforth is concerned Calnash Ag Event Centre’s schedule is too busy for the county to fully service them.

He wants to make sure county machinery and resources aren’t going to be pulled from county jobs in order to prepare the ag event centre each time they hold an event.

“The other part of the concern is county council, at the time, wanted to see some things done. Particularly with some substantial contributions county’s made to this point that for whatever reason weren’t considered a priority,” Cutforth added.

A primary concern of the county was a large sign visible from Highway 2A to let people know what events were taking place inside, as well as provide accreditation to major donators to the building and its operations. “I know a number of them were assured they would see their name in lights,” said Cutforth.

He also says some of the issues and concerns stem from the governing makeup of the “unique” organization. Most communities with equivalent centres have the operation run by the ag society.

More issues came to head when the ag centre’s manager, Chas Lambert, was fired early last year.

The county had assumed PAECS would take a governing role and let the hired manager look after the day-to-day operations. “The Ag Society and the Stampede Association have always been and are operational boards. They are directly involved in the day-to-day operation,” said Cutforth.

“If you’re looking for my opinion, and I go right back to the original concept, I don’t think it matters a lick who represents who if you’ve got the right people sitting on that board for the right reasons,” he added.

He doesn’t feel the differences and divisional lines between the organizations are worth the animosity in the community because they’re all representing the same building and common goals.