Potawatomi Zoological Society looking for management change - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Potawatomi Zoological Society looking for management change


Right now the The Potawatomi zoo is run by the City of South Bend.  But would it be a better zoo if there was a change at the top?  The Potawatomi Zoological Society wants to run the Zoo.  They presented the idea to the a South Bend Common Council Committee Thursday night.

The Potawatomi Zoological Society told Council members they want a Public Private Partnership.
This means the city would still own the zoo but the Zoological Society would run it.  They told council members this would benefit the zoo in several ways.

Zoological Society Past President George Horn said, "we anticipate being able to raise more money under the public private partnership which will allow us to upgrade the facilities we have and hopefully do more things."  He said now, "this zoo is so dependent on city dollars and tax payer dollars."

But if they were to manage the zoo they could raise more money through donations.  "Under this model they know those dollars will stay with the zoo," he said the money won't go to the city and potentially end up someplace other than zoo.

And the zoo making money would be something new.  "The zoo loses 900 thousand some odd dollars a year. I mean they're in the negatives," said Horn.  This doesn't necessarily mean the zoo is in trouble, Horn said, most city institutions lose money.  But with the Public Private Partnership he said they'd be in the black.

The society also said the partnership would help them streamline management.  Right now they have a Zoological Society President and have been searching for a new Zoo President.  With this partnership they'd only need one president, not two.

The partnership would also help the zoo keep their Accreditation.  Without accreditation they'd lose a large percentage of their animals.  "If you lose 50 to 80 percent of your animals you don't have a whole lot left," said Horn.  They're think they're currently in jeopardy of losing their accreditation with the Association of Zoo's and Aquariums because the AZA has already told the zoo they have some issues.  Mainly leadership and financial sustainability.

Council Members do not want the zoo to go downhill.  Henry Davis Jr. said, "The zoo is extremely important given it's number two on the radar when you're talking about tourism for our city.  We want to do what's necessary to show the zoo is growing, show the zoo is a great asset to the City of South Bend."

But they haven't given their support of the new partnership yet.  They want some more answers and more concrete information.  An issue that repeatedly got brought up at the meeting is the zoo's employees.  Specifically making sure they don't lose their current wages and benefits.  The Zoological society ensured the council that employees would not lose any benefits, or pay. And that their retirement would stay in tact.

Another issue that was brought up...the animals well being.  The Zoological society said that with a public private partnership they would be able to upgrade the current facilities and add new ones.  Some potential new things the Zoological Society would like include a giraffe exhibit and carousel.  But that is still far from happening.

Next up in the process of forming the public private partnership?  Well in the end all the council can do really is pass a resolution of support for the proposal.  They did not do that Thursday night and it'll be weeks before they decide whether or not to do that.  Ultimately, the decision is up to the Mayor and Park Board. 



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