Copperas Cove city council tables action on dog park agreement

Cove Leader-Press 

The Copperas Cove City Council decided to table any action on a sponsorship agreement between the City of Copperas Cove and Raising Cane’s Restaurants during their regular meeting Tuesday evening. 
The sponsorship agreement details that Raising Cane’s would sponsor the construction of a dog park inside City Park, and retain naming rights, for $50,000. 
The city council had previously requested discussions on a dog park in 2015, and in 2018, those discussions continued. The Five Hills Scholarship Pageant Program developed a sponsorship packet, with different levels of sponsorship, and began fundraising. Back in December 2021, the city council directed city staff to enter into discussion with a possible donor, which turned out to be Raising Cane’s, regarding their interest in becoming the “Top Dog” sponsor with a contribution of $50,000. 
Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Stoddard stated that city staff had met with representatives of Raising Cane’s to discuss the agreement. Raising Cane’s had provided the agreement to their legal department for review before the city provided the agreement to the city attorney for review, before it was brought before the city council. 
City Manager Ryan Haverlah pointed out that with the review by both parties’ legal people, there were even some changes made. 
“Very specifically wanted to let Council know that both our city attorney as well as the attorney with Raising Cane’s have reviewed and discussed the legal language that is in the agreement, and you can tell that there are certain portions of the agreement that-there’s one section that says intentionally omitted, and so everything that exists on Exhibit A to the agreement are really focused on policy decisions, and so that’s really discussion that counsel should focus on,” Haverlah said. 
Councilmember Dianne Campbell said that she had several questions regarding the agreement, most importantly being the part of the agreement that lists the benefits awarded to the sponsor, including the exclusive naming rights for the dog park. 
“I had stated this before, from the dais, and again, I feel strongly that that needs to be approved by city council,” Campbell said. “It has been explained to me that under No. 3, Team Event Name and Description Raising Cane’s Dog Park, infers that that is the name of the park which I have no problem with that, as the sponsor. However, I don’t really feel comfortable that the agreement or the attachment is actually stating that.”
Upon input from the city attorney, it was pointed out that the city can change the agreement to be worded that the dog park is named whatever Raising Cane’s wishes to name it, such as Raising Cane’s Dog Park, rather than allow the ambiguity of Raising Cane’s potentially being able to change the name during the 10-year period of the agreement, which Campbell said she had been concerned about. Campbell said she wanted language in the agreement that specifically states what the name is or that it requires council approval. 
Campbell also said she had concerns over the part of the agreement which stated that Raising Cane’s, as the sponsor, would have “the opportunity to participate in all events held at City Park.”
“It does not specifically state the dog park, so you know if it’s Rabbit Fest or a softball game or a wedding reception, I mean, where does this end?” Campbell said. “Is the Civic Center considered part of the park, so if someone’s having a wedding, that could be impacted. Softball tournaments and games. I made a list of different things that I can think of that might be impacted by that language, and I just think it needs to be specific to the dog park and not the entire park because what it says is city park.” 
Haverlah shared that Raising Cane’s intention with this provision was to have an opportunity to participate in an event if it is a community sponsored event or a publicly open event. 
“Just as an example, if there is a Rabbit Fest event, that they have an opportunity to participate in that event,” Haverlah said. “If there is the July 4 celebration that’s being scheduled and sponsored by a third party, but it is completely open to the public, that they have an opportunity to participate in that event.”
He said Raising Cane’s would be fine with adding language to exclude private events and other paid events. 
“Their intention is that they’re investing in the community, and they want that opportunity to continue to partner, invest and market their company in the community, as a community partner,” Haverlah said. 
Campbell stated that she had no problem with this for city events but felt that it should not apply to private events or events not run by the city. Haverlah said that language can be added to the agreement to make this more clear and “provide a little bit of control.”
Councilmember Joann Courtland asked about the possibility of making it geared towards “public events”, such as the Cove Life Fourth of July celebration that is being hosted and organized by a church at City Park and is open to the public. 
Campbell said she felt it should be for “city-sponsored events”. 
“If it’s a private sponsor and open to the public, then I don’t think they should automatically- it can be negotiated,” Campbell said. “They can go through that private sponsor and ask if they can have a booth or whatever, but I don’t think it should be assumed or stated, ‘at any event at City Park unless it’s city sponsored.’” 
Campbell said she also had a concern over the part of the agreement that states the sponsor had exclusivity for “quick service chicken restaurant” sponsorship of the team/event (or dog park) and thought that should be more specific. 
“That’s a strong term- exclusive,” Campbell said. 
Courtland pointed out that the “team/event” is only the dog park, not the entire City Park.
Campbell said her final concern was the part of the agreement that stated, “sponsor shall donate products and promotional items…”
“So, what this portion of the agreement states is that they will not be providing products or promotional items because that’s under the sponsor obligations, and so some of the other sponsorships that they go through, they provide those products and promotional materials,” Haverlah said. “For this purpose, they are not providing any of those items. It is simply a $50,000 payment to go towards the construction of the dog park.”
Councilmember Vonya Hart asked a question over who would be responsible for the signage in the event that it is broken and needs replacing. 
After discussion with the city attorney, it was determined that the agreement reads that the city would be responsible for replacing the sign. 
The council agreed to table action on the agreement until city staff can bring back the agreement with the discussed changes, and after Raising Cane’s gets the opportunity review the changes as well. 
“I’m certainly appreciative of the fact that Raising Cane’s wants to do this, and this is a national program that they’re doing with cities all over. It’s not just Copperas Cove,” said Mayor Dan Yancey. “One of the questions that I asked Ryan earlier is all these agreements are unique to each individual city. I don’t think there’s a rubber stamp ‘It’s this or nothing.’ Every city has its own ideas on that, and I think Raising Cane’s, to be a good citizen ambassador for the city, is they want to cooperate and do everything possible to make this a truly partnership situation.”

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