An idea presented that would move the Rimbey Agrim to its next stage of development was welcomed by Ponoka County council.
Consultant Ken Kendall, who the county hired last year to help guide the Rimbey Agricultural Society board through the renovation project of the facility, has recommended that it is time for a full-time manager to begin running the facility’s operation.
Kendall explained that the position would greatly benefit both the facility and the volunteer organization.
“Doing so would not only help make the facility sustainable and economically viable, but would also allow all of the volunteers a much needed rest,” he told council during an update provided on Aug. 13.
“The facility is now at the point where we are going to have an incredibly capable facility, but to be honest, I think energy-wise that the volunteers are starting to hit a wall.
“I think now this requires some full-time attention to run it, to promote it, to deal with the administrative stuff, to deal with the maintenance and all of that. We need someone that can give the place the attention it needs and can chase the money.”
Overall, Kendall feels the society’s volunteers’ attitudes are awesome and that they continue to try and do their best. However, despite that, it is going to take far more energy and hours than the society can give to chase, build and nurture the facility in order to turn it from volunteer run to an actual business and a growing concern.
Kendall added that the building is nearly ready to go and that marketing and rentals for the upstairs will start as of Nov. 1.
The washrooms upstairs have been completed, while the elevator parts have been ordered and installation is slated to be done over the next few weeks. The Town of Rimbey has sponsored the capital expense for the elevator.
There remains a small bit of concrete work in the arena and a change was made to the flooring downstairs in order to allow for the purchase and installation of an upgraded flooring upstairs.
“We were also able to secure an incredibly good deal for the kitchen equipment through the now closed seniors facility in Rimbey,” Kendall stated.
“We got all of that equipment for $8,000. If we had to order it, it would have likely been over $150,000. However, it hasn’t been installed yet, as it will be the last part of this project.”
All that leaves is some work on the outside upper deck along with bringing up the parking lot to a usable standard and making a plan for the rest of the agricultural grounds.
Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth and council liked the manager idea, since a similar position in Ponoka has worked, but weren’t completely convinced to start with.
“I think we need a plan, an idea of what kind uses the facility would get and where the organization is at financially before the county could make a commitment to helping fund a manager for a short term,” said Cutforth.
Coun. Mark Matejka wondered if Kendall was looking at a similar operating model to what Ponoka’s Calnash Ag Event Centre or if it could all be left under the Rimbey Agricultural Society.
“I actually had a discussion with them about it and that it would be best under the society. But, they by doing it that they would not be an operational board, but a policy board,” he said.
“The manager would report to them, but they might find it more fun as they wouldn’t be delving through the weed, but having higher level discussions.”
In the end, council agreed that a manager is the logical progression, but asked Kendall what the society thought of some oversight if the county were to provide financial help to start.
“As long as the county has committed to funding, we have to have a level of oversight to justify and account for it, there will not be 100 per cent independence,” Cutforth said.
Kendall answered that the society’s board fully understands the county’s current role and its level of commitment.
“They are sensitive and respectful of it and understand there will be a transition period,” he said.
The issue will be back before council at their Sept. 10 meeting when administration will present a draft job description along with the society’s financial picture and recommendations on moving forward.