Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The Jackson City Council grudgingly approved a loan guarantee for the Jackson Zoo last night, even though some council members called for the city to take ownership of the zoo.
"I just think with all the money we're putting into the zoo, it's time for the city to run the thing," Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes said.
Council members Quentin Whitwell, Stokes and others appeared unsure of the vote that declares the city's willingness to allot a portion of its annual zoo disbursement to debt service for an $800,000 loan the zoo is taking out.
The Jackson Zoological Park, which faces re-accreditation this year, specifically asked the city to back the facility's attempt to restructure a total of $880,000 in debt. "The city is essentially guaranteeing that it will be honoring its (lease) agreement with the zoo for the next eight years or so, and that the amount (the bank) gets will be continuing, so the bank will be comfortable in restructuring the debt," Zoo Executive Director Beth Poff told the Jackson Free Press earlier this month. The guarantee does not mean the city is committing to committing any extra money to the zoo's budget. Instead, the city would steer a portion of its annual allocation to the cost of the restructuring, rather than directly to the zoo.
Last night Poff said the zoo has already laid off some workers to account for revenue shortfalls arising from falling attendance over the last two years, and said the facility has managed to run responsibly despite the economic downturn. "When you compare us to other zoos, $880,000 of debt really isn't that much," Poff said. "Other facilities have it much worse than us."
"I just think with all the money we're putting into the zoo, it's time for the city to run the thing," Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes said. Oh, please God no...