County would donate $700,000 to manage ag centre

“If we are going to put that kind of money into it, I want to see us run it.” — Coun. Gawney Hinkley.

  • Oct. 5, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Parts manager Al Schindler

By Treena Mielke

Ponoka County councillors are willing to donate another $700,000 to the capital costs of the Ponoka Ag Events Centre, but only if they are handed the reins to manage it as they see fit.

At its regular meeting Sept. 29 council gave the green light to the expenditure provided the county takes over as manager until the centre is considered profitable.

Council wants the Ponoka Agricultural Events Centre Society (PAECS) consisting of Ponoka County, Ponoka Agricultural Society, the Ponoka Stampede Association and the Town of Ponoka representatives to act in an advisory capacity.

The centre’s general manager, Chas Lambert, would work with the county to manage the centre.

The county, which has already contributed $2.2 million to the $10-million project, plans to pay for the completion of the staging area between the centre and the barns, the installation of a sound system, proper signage and permanent seating.

A recommendation by CAO Charlie Cutforth to have the county manage the centre for a three-year term was turned down by council.

“If we are going to put that kind of money into it, I want to see us run it,” said Coun. Gawney Hinkley.

Cutforth, also the volunteer president of the PAECS, said funding for the centre has come from the province, which contributed $4 million, the Ponoka Stampede Association, which donated the land valued at $400,000, the Ag Society contributed $270,000, the town approximately $150,000 and Ponoka County.

Major corporate donations came from the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Hall of Fame, $200,000, Encana $500,000, Don Laing Trailer Sales, $125,000 and Mixcor Aggregates $100,000. Donations from other corporate sponsors account for the remainder of the funding.

A letter is being sent to Ponoka Agricultural Society, the Ponoka Stampede Association and the Town of Ponoka who are partners in the ag events centre society to notify them of the county’s intent.

Sherry Gummow, who represents the agricultural society on the PAECS board, had not yet received confirmation of the county’s decision and didn’t wish to comment.

Ponoka CAO Brad Watson said he needs more information about the county’s decision to manage the centre.

“I will have to contact the CAO asking for clarification,” he said. “I don’t know enough detail at this point. I do recognize the importance of the facility to our community, and the town, as a partner, is in full support of it.”

Ponoka Stampede president Rick Wierzba was in Florida at press time Monday.

Two major events have been held in the centre, but Cutforth said it is not fully open yet. Bookings, however, are being taken for 2012.

“We could have this booked every weekend,” said Cutforth. “The sky’s the limit. We are only restricted by our own imagination. With the demand for this facility there is no issue in it paying for itself.”

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