April 19th, 2024

New Exhibition board looks like an impressive group


By Lethbridge Herald on February 23, 2024.

LEAVE IT TO BEEBER
Al Beeber – managing editor

I may sort of have been away from the office last week but I still kept in touch with the happenings in our busy community.

Admittedly, I bailed on council from my couch when they abruptly went in camera during a meeting with a light agenda because I knew the City would be sending releases on a couple of matters.

 Clearly I didn’t miss much and we had the stories anyway thanks to the City’s communication team.

But I was at my desk for the three mornings by 5 a.m.ish to work on assorted stuff and was in regular contact throughout the day the rest of the week with various staff members on different Herald matters.So I wasn’t totally away – just enough to walk the pups and sneak in a brief nap here and there.

Two stories developed while I was away from my desk that really piqued my interest. One was the naming of the new board for the Lethbridge & District Exhibition, the other the expansion of the city shelter.

To refresh you on the Exhibition story, City manager Lloyd Brierley and Lethbridge County CAO Cole Beck have been named co-chairs of the board. 

Vice-chairs are the City’s Director of Community Services Carly Kleisinger and Jennifer Place, Acting Director of Corporate Services of the County.

The rest of the board consists of City Solicitor and Director of Legal Services Brian Loewen, City Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Darrell Mathews, City Director of Corporate Services Jason Elliott, City Director of Community  & Council Relations Travis Hillier and the City Director of of People & Partner Services Nicole Mitton.

Kim Gallucci has taken leave from his position as general manager of the Enmax Centre to take on the role of acting CEO of the Exhibition for a year.

This is a pretty impressive roster of talent taking over the reins of the Exhibition. There is some strong leadership and talent among this group, several of whom I’ve gotten to know through my work covering City Hall and others who I’ve listened to while doing my work.

I don’t know the County representatives on the board so I can’t speak about them but I’ve got big respect for the City members. 

Earning my respect isn’t easy, to be honest. But this group has it because I’ve been watching their work for the last 2.5 years.

It’s easy for residents to be skeptical and suspicious given what we’ve seen come to light about the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre’s costs and the Exhibition’s deficit situation. 

Maybe I’m wrong in my faith but my gut tells me otherwise. 

And I trust my gut. City Hall has become like a third home (the office being my second) to me given the amount of time I spend there and I like what I see in this crew.

Installing a new board was part of the Memorandum of Understanding that was agreed upon by the City and the Exhibition as terms of the lifeline thrown to it.

And with new leadership installed, the Exhibition can begin the work of making the investments by the City, County and Province of Alberta pay off.

 As we heard last November, the Exhibition is expecting to lose money for three to four years.

Part of the MOU also calls for an independent third-party review of the Exhibition, the first phase of which is to be presented to council in November which will give our elected officials and City administration an idea of the best avenue to turn down moving forward for the financially struggling operation.

Council heard during a presentation a few weeks ago that from an estimated $2.3 million surplus City administration has determined instead the Exhibition is looking at a $6.5 million operating deficit in 2023-24.

Declining the MOU would have still required $3.4 million in operating funding for 2024. And for 2025-26 there would be $2.8 million in operating funding required. 

Getting the Exhibition back on track financially won’t be a quick job but there is now light at the end of what was appearing to be a dark tunnel for the Exhibition and the new Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre which next week is playing host to Ag-Expo.

Another story of interest was the expansion of the shelter and the announcement in Mayor Blaine Hyggen’s monthly column that the City of Lethbridge has transferred ownership of the shelter property to the Lethbridge Housing Association. 

The $4 million funding agreement by the province to expand shelter capacity by 125 beds is between it and the LHA. 

The Blood Tribe Department of Health will continue to run the shelter.

In his column, Hyggen stated that transferring ownership of the property will simplify relationships “by removing the City from being a landlord between the province and the agencies it funds to manage and deliver a critical provincial service.”

LHA’s involvement has to be a positive because Robin James and her staff know well the problems that exist in our community with the unsheltered and clearly have a vision on how to deal with those issues.

James, as we’ve seen at public hearings, has run into opposition from some regarding LHA efforts to help the homeless but if critics took the time and effort to truly listen to her, they could be become supporters.

Both these stories are big and in a time when news seems to be more depressing than usual, they are a breath of fresh air.

I’m looking forward to seeing how both play out over time.

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