A proposal to move the future operations of the E.A. Rawlinson Centre into the Community Services Department came before council Monday in the wake of a management shakeup at the centre.
In December, the city announced it would not renew its operating contract with Star Development, the company responsible for events at the centre for the better part of the past 14 years.
According to Jody Boulet, the city’s director of community services, an interim management plan is in place at the centre that sees management report to the community services department. This is a similar structure seen at other city facilities. He said there are many benefits keeping constancy in reporting structures, leading to the recommendation to permanently keep this in place and proceed with hiring a manager and filling other staff vacancies. The city first assumed operation of the facility from the Prince Albert Arts Board in 2015.
“We did have, for a number of years, a separate contract for services with Star Development and a private operator relationship,” he said. “However, you don’t have that direct relationship with the staff and the volunteers and certainly there are some benefits to having that oversight and direction.”
While Boulet said this management structure worked well, things “change over time, and there are some benefits to having it within the department moving forward.”
One of the many benefits includes cost reductions through bundling purchases and services. There are also a number of incentives planned to be rolled out that should boost revenue streams, such as improving online ticket sales and pre-sale opportunities. Boulet believes the financial implication to the city will be a net benefit.
“I think we will find the overall operating subsidy, as we move forward, will actually decrease,” he said. “I think it will provide us with a business case that we can look at for further improvements in the operations moving forward.”
Another key focus upon moving operations in-house would pertain to connections with sponsors, something that has been disrupted overtime, according to Boulet.
“They have to see that value and have that personal interaction. We want to make sure there is good attention paid to that,” he said.
Boulet said plans are in place to have the posting for a new manager up within the coming weeks. He said the city will cast a wide net in recruitment, which also should generate interest in the facility. Boulet would like to see a new manager in place by May 1.
A number of operational improvements were identified in the 2018 budget for the centre including software upgrades and improving the design and function of the website. A comprehensive inventory of equipment and facility improvements is currently underway. This will form the basis for funding recommendations from the reserve fund in future budget deliberations.
Alongside the move in-house, options were explored to either find a new private contractor or transition operations back to a non-profit board. According to agenda documents, a private contractor was not suggested, as only one other centre in Canada remains privately operated. Due to this, there is a lack of qualified private contractors available to perform required duties. Returning the centre to a non-profit was also not preferred as this option ran a risk of being more expensive as the non-profit would need to perform a separate audit and secure their own legal services as required, which could add another $15,000 to $20,000 annually to the budget, according to agenda documents.
A meeting has been held with CUPE 882 to discuss upcoming management changes, however, further talks are required to determine which positions will remain in or out of scope.
All of this is expected to be completed and included in advance of the next report to council on the subject.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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