Zoo Closer to New Management
Talks could wrap up in a matter of days and a new zoo management team could be in place next month.
Since January, the Lumumba administration has been in talks with the ZoOcenarium group, an international firm they’re backing to take over leadership of the Jackson Zoological Park.
The city council approved the administration’s request to enter into discussions with the company in late January.
“We’ve agreed on essentially every point and are very close to finalizing everything,” said Jackson Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine. “They’re in position to take over as soon as the approval is given.”
He expects the administration will ask the council to approve the contract at one of the board’s two meetings in March.
If approved, the firm would take the reins of the West Jackson park from longtime managers Jackson Zoological Society.
“They have a team that is already ready. It’s just a matter of when the council approves it,” Blaine said.
Under terms of the agreement, Jackson would pay ZoOceanarium $990,000 for the first year, an amount that would increase by about $10,000 each year after that. The fee would be about $110,000 more than the amount Jackson was required to pay the society.
The firm would also be able to use the remaining $400,000 in state bond funds to make facility improvements at the park.
Meanwhile, city officials said it would be at least another week before auditors would complete a financial audit of the zoo’s finances.
In October, the council approved hiring accounting firm Bruno and Tervalon, LLP to conduct a forensic audit of the zoo’s numbers.
The contract was for $40,000 and called for Bruno and Tervalon to go through the last two years of records for the society to help the city better understand the “full picture” of the park’s financial position, Blaine said.
Once completed, the document will help the city and ZoOceanarium better determine the zoo’s future financial needs.
The audit was supposed to be completed before the end of the year but was delayed because of a misunderstanding between the New Orleans-based agency and the city, Blaine said.
To Review Policy
Following a resident’s claim that the Madison County board of supervisors’ road claim policy is unfair, the board plans to review the policy and make a change.
Madison resident Shannon Lott approached the board to be reimbursed for vehicle repairs after his son hit two large potholes on Bozeman Road.
Lott said his son was traveling on Bozeman Road at night in the rain and hit two large potholes, which damaged his two tires on the right side of his vehicle.
The first hole was approximately two feet by three feet, and the second was one and a half feet by two and a half feet, according to Lott.
The vehicle had to be towed to Gluckstadt and had to be repaired where it was because it was impossible to move.
The whole ordeal cost Lott $795.68.
Lott said several vehicles were damaged that night on the potholes his son hit. He cited bad lighting, the weather and the lack of repair for the accidents.
“I spent a year in a place called Baghdad, and they do a better repaving job there than this hole was repaired,” Lott said.
Ward Four supervisor David Bishop made a motion to pay the claim.
The county’s current policy states that the county is not liable unless the defect in the road was the direct cause of damage and “was not apparent or discovered by the exercise of reasonable diligence.”
The policy also states that the county is not liable if they made a repair to the road up to seven days after it was reported.
The board voted to approve Lott’s request for payment for the damage done to his vehicle.
The board plans to revisit the policy and present the options at the next board meeting.
“I will say Mr. Bishop and the board of supervisors did the right thing and fixing the policy is critical. It’s bad policy,” Lott said.
No Farmers Market Director
The city of Ridgeland denied a request from Gabe Porter, the current director of the city’s farmers market, seeking compensation for his work.
The agreement that Porter presented to the board outlined his responsibilities and proposed an annual salary of $28,000.
Porter’s proposed duties outlined in the agreement include building relationships to develop the market, marketing and promotional activities, coordinating with local vendors, organizing all market events and all that entails, among other responsibilities.
The board denied the request with a 2-5 vote. Aldermen Chuck Gautier and Wesley Hamlin were the two who voted to approve.
Concerns were raised about the lack of money set aside in the budget for an additional salary.
“I think they wanted to see the money first before we commit,” Gautier said.
However, Gautier said he was disappointed tthe request was denied. He is proud of the work being done for the market and what it offers the city.
“We have to invest a little in the future,” Gautier said. “I was disappointed that it didn’t get passed.”
“I felt like it was a good proposal it just didn’t get the interest of the other aldermen,” Gautier added.