Facility losses shock Morinville council


Centre loses $17,000 on two shows

Town council vowed to rein in goings-on at the Community Cultural Centre last week after learning that its last two shows had cost taxpayers some $17,000.

Council got its first detailed look last week at the costs of the last two shows held at the cultural centre.

Councillors have had many questions about the costs of running the centre since it opened in 2011.

The report suggested that the last two events – three shows by MĂ©tis fiddler Calvin Vollrath and a performance by La Folia Ensemble – cost the town a net $16,415.38.

Ticket and bar sales fell far short of the costs of putting on both shows, the report suggests. It cost the town about $30,098 to host Vollrath, for example, whose show brought in just $16,309 in sales. La Folia Ensemble cost about $2,770 in fees and services and generated a mere $144 in sales.

Coun. Stephen Dafoe, who has criticized the town’s expenditures on shows at the cultural centre in the past, said he was “gobsmacked” by these losses.

“That’s almost $17,000 that we’ve frittered away over two weekends and four performances,” he said in an interview – equivalent to about half the cash the Morinville Public Elementary School’s parent fundraising group hoped the town would give them to build a new playground.

“It’s taxpayers’ money going out the window here.”

Coun. Gordon Putnam agreed that these losses could not continue, but warned against cancelling events simply because they didn’t make money.

“Some of what is arts and culture in our community, you can’t put a dollar value on that.”

Some events at the centre create lifelong experiences for children and are worth doing even if they lose money, Dafoe agreed.

“I don’t see a value in losing 17 grand over two weekends.”

The “root of all evil” here is the fact that the town lacks a cultural plan that would define how it wants to use the centre, Coun. Nicole Boutestein said in an interview.

“How can we critique the shows, the performances, any of the events we’re having if we don’t have a plan of what we want?”

When asked why council had yet make this plan (given that the centre has been open since 2011), Boutestein said that council had gotten too wrapped up in the dollars and cents of the centre and forgotten the centre’s intent, i.e. promoting culture. It’s also only with the recent hiring of the centre’s new business and operations manager that council has been able to get these detailed costs.

It’s not council’s job to decide what shows should run in the centre, Mayor Lisa Holmes said in council. Rather, it’s up to council to decide what losses on those shows are acceptable.

“No one anticipated this would happen,” she added.

Council supported a pair of motions from Dafoe on the issue.

The first called on council to hold a workshop this September to determine the level of cost recovery it expects to get from children, family and adult shows at the centre.

“We cannot have these losses,” he said, and this step would stop the “haemorrhaging” of money now happening with some shows at the centre.

The second asked administration to bring back options on how to reduce the number of performances scheduled at the centre this year. About 11 adult and children’s performances were planned for the 2014-2015 season, a report to council suggests.

Boutestein also won support for her call for administration to bring a draft cultural plan to council by the end of the year.


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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.