Council approves series of major changes after DFFH report City to run YaraCentre, third-party management to take over Mosaic Place
Mosaic Place and YaraCentre will be taking drastically different directions concerning management and administration, after the most recent meeting of Moose Jaw City Council.
City manager Jim Puffalt delivered his council-requested report on potential Downtown Facility and Field House strategic directions, bringing forward five recommendations that were all passed and accepted by council – but not without significant debate.
Following council’s decisions:
Moose Jaw Downtown and Soccer/Field-House Facilities Inc. will be wound down over the next year and control of the facilities will become line facilities of the City of Moose Jaw.
YaraCentre and staff will transfer to the parks and recreation department.
Mosaic Place will act as a stand-alone facility and a third-party management and operational company will be sought with the intent of signing a five-year contract. Mosaic Place staff will transfer to the management company.
The city will actively pursue events for Mosaic Place, with the city manager having purchasing authority up to $150,000 and any show over that amount going to executive committee for review and approval. Quarterly reports will be provided to council for both facilities.
The decisions bring about massive changes to how the two facilities are governed, with the beleaguered DFFH board of directors dissolved once and for all and a complete revision in how things will be governed going forward.
Coun. Dawn Luhning called for a motion to accept all five aspects of the report.
“I do believe this is the appropriate move for these facilities at this time,” she said. “Unfortunately, they’ve had their trouble over the years, but it’s time to get a handle on all the good things those facilities are able to offer the community. When these facilities were first a dream in this city, it divided the community and it’s time to stop that and have something that’s going to create a little bit of good. I think those facilities and the staff, and the city, need a positive story out of this and these recommendations are right for the facility at this time.”
Coun. Brian Swanson voiced his opposition to the plan in it’s entirety, with a major point of contention being the idea of third-party management, based on prior experience with such companies.
“The idea that third party is going to somehow turn a miracle for Moose Jaw is a bit naive because their focus is making money, and the money they make doesn’t stay in Moose Jaw, it goes back to Philadelphia and New Jersey (where the managers are from),” Swanson said, adding that the services they provide are very expensive and could provide much more negative than positive to the current situation.
Coun. Crystal Froese took the opposite stance, referencing a host of research she conducted involving conversations with other cities featuring third-party management of major recreational facilities. She pointed to the city of Penticton, B.C. and the South Okanagan Events Centre as an example, where a third-party system has been so successful the 5,000-seat facility is on the verge of being paid off after opening in 2008, in addition to bringing in $20 million a year in revenue.
“That Events Centre is completely transparent; all their documents are completely open to the public and city council is involved in their process,” Froese said. “It’s a very, very healthy environment and I can’t see why we can’t have the same thing here. That’s what the citizens expect from this investment and they aren’t getting it. “There’s the saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result is insanity. Well, that’s kind of what this has felt like,” she continued. “I really believe this motion will get us to where we should have been right from the start. It is absolutely the right decision for our city and I think we’re going to see results from third-party management within 12 months. They’re that professional; they are in it to win and do as much as they can for the community and on behalf of the community. The whole idea that they’re just there for digging in our pockets is not true, it’s not factual... their businesses wouldn’t survive, no one would use them if that were the case.”
Coun. McMann also voiced his opposition to the entirety of the plan, saying the lack of parking and design and layout of the building and conference facilities makes attracting clients difficult to begin with and that the costs of a third-party system would be prohibitive.
“The report presented to us tonight says the number one objective is bringing responsibility and governance back to city council, and with a third-party manager reporting directly to the city manager, I don’t see how that’s accomplished,” McMann said, adding that he also disagreed with how third-party management would enhance accountability and share resources and staffing.
The first and fourth motions both passed 4-3, with Swanson and McMann universally opposed to the recommendations, Coun. Heather Eby voting against the dissolution of DFFH Inc. and Coun. Chris Warren against the city manager pursuing events for Mosaic Place.
Council approved the replacement of the city’s payroll / human resource system with a modern, cloud-based system provided by the company Ceridian at a cost of $80,400.
The base of the current system had been in use since 1992, with upgrades in 2010 and 2013 acting as stopgaps to keep things running. Over the last year and half, the system has run into major difficulties, to the point producing payrolls has been compromised.
The request – presented by city comptroller Sandy Campbell – was made with the goal of finding and implementing a replacement before a catastrophic failure.
The motion passed unanimously.
Coun. Swanson presented a motion for the City of Moose Jaw to voice opposition to the change in the provincial municipal election day from the fourth Wednesday in October to the second Wednesday in November, with potential inclement weather the chief concern.
The motion passed unanimously.
Council received the schedule for upcoming budget committee meetings, with the first meeting taking place Dec. 3 and featuring the presentation of the budget. Following meetings take place on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, both at 5:30 p.m., and on Dec. 17 following the regular meeting of city council.
Moose Jaw city manager Jim Puffalt delivers the DFFH strategic directions report that resulted in a series of major changes regarding YaraCentre and Mosaic Place.