Sunday, April 19, 2009

Privatize the Zoo?

That's something I don't believe I've ever heard anyone up here discuss. I'm not talking about necessarily selling the zoo lock, stock and barrel, but maybe turn over some functions to private outfits, assuming you can find private companies that do zoo stuff.

I'm not even sure that would solve the funding problems, but other communities have tried, or are about to try similar things. The Santa Rosa Press- Democrat reports Petaluma is considering turning over staffing and day to day operation of their public swimming pools to a private company in light of the city's budget deficit.

Remarkably, they believe the turnover will not only save the city around $260,000 a year, but will also allow them to extend the swimming season. The only expected downside, is fees for swimming lessons will almost triple, from $50.00 to $140.00. Well, at least that should just be a one- time fee for those taking the lessons.

Some years ago I believe it was the City of Redlands(?), in Southern California that had a problem with their library. It was much along the line of complaints I've heard about our county library: Too expensive to run and not accessible to the public. They hired a private company to take over operations. Last I heard money was being saved and open hours had increased.

It would be interesting to see how that library is doing now, and it will be interesting to see how Petaluma's swimming experiment works. Maybe we can apply any lessons learned to the Sequoia Park Zoo?



At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sequoia Park Zoo would not be profitable for a private company. The zoo makes about 400,000 off ticket sales and another 75,000 off the cafe and gift shop but the opperating cost of the whole zoo is 650,000. A private company could only cut the pay and benefits of zoo staff but zookeeper salaries are already small and benefits few. No company would buy the zoo since they could not turn a profit.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Fred said...

That could well be true, but no harm in keeping our eyes and ears open for such offers to see what they would involve.

At 12:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at the private operation of the Eureka Muni Golf Course for a local model.

At 6:28 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I always forget that the golf course is privately run. One of those places you never really hear about, either. Just plugs along year after year.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

golf courses are very profitable, zoos are not.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger mresquan said...

Zoos may not be profitable because they are required to pay a prevailing wage when they are tied to a governing agency.Finance Advisory Committee director Dave Ogden once told me that the prevailing wages are double what would be paid by a privateer,in regards to zoo construction and animal care.Really,I would like someone to articulate why a privately run zoo couldn't make money.Animals are not all that expensive,and maintenance is relatively low if the animal is in a natural enough environment and given proper attention by staff.
That being said,I think that most zoos are cruel,the San Francisco one topping the list.Went there once and have absolutely no desire to go back.

At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Jeff Leonard said...

Agreed. I'm willing to look at turning the zoo over to a private company or a private non-profit.

I think there is money that could be saved if they weren't tied directly to the city. Many zoos are "owned" by cities, but operated by private non-profits.


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