150 years – $150,000

In the mid 1980s a non-profit outfit in the United states named The Project On Government Oversight gained wide attention after uncovering Pentagon waste including $640 toilet seats, $7,600 coffee makers, $436 hammers and other overpriced spare parts used by the military.

Last year Macleans did a piece early last year titled “99 stupid things the government did with your money” you can read part 1 here:
http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/01/07/99-stupid-things-the-government-did-with-your-money-part-i/

After having confirmed for me the town spent over $11,000 on the aurora150.ca website (which is now defunct) over the weekend I reviewed 13 pages of the Town’s 2013 General ledger that cover a total of $138,590.55 in spending for last year’s 150th celebrations

Back in October I started with requests to one councilor for this information. It has taken requests to 3 additional councilors, some of which suggested I should submit an F.O.I. before I received what I was seeking.

I’m not if the majority of council have reviewed these figures or are just embarrassed that they approved them, but there isn’t much to celebrate.

The bland and unimpressive slab cake that I commented on in this post :
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/when-the-levee-breaks-your-spirit/ came from Metro.

Cost : $306

WTF? #1

There are a lot of other eye-openers in there as well, especially when you drill down to the pages of expenses for advertising.

Total advertising spend : $38,525.30

We already know that the aurora150.ca website cost $11,000+ to a Kitchener firm, when it could have been had for $0 by an Aurora company, so how was the remaining $20,000+ spent?

A great deal of it is ad spending between The Auroran, The Banner and Snap. There are so many entries I can’t be bothered to do a total, needless to say it was substantial.

Interesting that the majority of the ad spend is in traditional print, especially when during the Focus Group meeting for the Cultural Master Plan I was attending one member of the 150 committee commented that “no one reads the papers”.

It is important to scrutinize these figures because it was the very same member who admitted that the committee’s greatest challenge was marketing to residents as I commented on here:
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/a-limited-engagement/

It could be because the committee’s marketing strategy, if you could call it that, made all of the mistakes listed in this piece here:
http://inspirationfeed.com/articles/business/common-internet-marketing-mistakes-you-can-avoid/

Oh, and remember the 150’s social media components, that one committee member was nonchalantly going to “personally manage” as I pointed out in this post: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/aurora-150-goes-up-to-151/

Well it turns out that the town spent $4,250 on Facebook ads for that presence he was so ready to walk out the door with.

$4,000+ for Facebook ads.

Think about that one for a second.

When this amount of money is spent on a social media campaign in the private sector it is not unreasonable to expect that those responsible would capture and review the metrics to determine ROI.

However the town of Aurora doesn’t have a social media policy.

It has also shut down the Facebook page it invested these ad dollars in.

WTF? #2

What is included in these budget figures is as interesting as what is excluded.

For example the amount spent on the hiring of the event coordinator, who bailed after the first event. There was an upset limit of $60,000.

How much was spent? and where would that amount be absorbed?

Another curious item that has been left out is the 150 logo.

I was led to believe this was accomplished with in-house resources, but that does not appear to be the case.

A design firm out of Keswick called Spark Creative ( http://www.spark-creative.ca ) is listing the Town of Aurora’s “Signage and Sesquicentennial logo” in their portfolio here: http://www.spark-creative.ca/portfolio.html#SparkPortfolio

Nowhere in the presentation and discussions of September 5th ad-hoc committee meeting, which I posted on here: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/have-your-cake-and-m-eat-iocre-it-too/ do I recall the Town’s Communication Manager disclose Spark’s involvement.
Furthermore there is also no mention of the agency in the “Logo Usage Guidelines” document, which is Item #3 from the attachment to the agenda on Wednesday October 24th 2012:
http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=60549

So the town had to contract out the design of this logo because they are incapable of building something this simple themselves?

The amount spent is likely buried somewhere in the Town’s 2012 Communications Budget of over $500,000 but trying to get a figure for this will require another round of asking questions that will likely go ignored.

This contract is now the second example of a business outside Aurora that was awarded work on elements of the town’s 150 celebrations (Keswick and Kitchener). Surely there are Aurora businesses that could have been turned to for this work.

I find it exceptionally hypocritical of the town to spend an additional $8,000 to
recognize local businesses last year when they aren’t even willing to work with them themselves in a setting like this that is supposed to celebrate the town.

WTF? #3

It’s not that the committee didn’t turn to local businesses, there was that cake from Metro and several items were purchased from Wallmart.

A local business was also contracted to do the handful of large historic photos that were on display at the events at a cost of $550.

That business just happens to belong to one of the committee members.

WTF? #4

This is just one more example where the Town’s efforts are not aligned with its strategic plan that emphasizes innovation and sustainability and it is certainly no wonder the committee had such a challenge in reaching and engaging residents when this is how they chose to operate.

Ironically innovation and sustainability were two things that were present in the town’s Centennial celebrations which cost a total of $20,000 with the Mayor at the time claiming the town would break even. This is covered on page 219 of Elizabeth Milner’s book Aurora 1945-1965 : An Ontario Town at a time of great change.

Suggesting that Aurora’s 150 celebrations were even remotely fiscally responsible is inaccurate at best.

The true cost of which is anyone’s guess.

The real question is if the town is willing to learn from its mistakes or risk making them again in another 50 years.

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