South Bend zoo management debate begins

There are some things that need tending at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend—besides the animals.

“The zoo director’s position has been vacant for about a year and a half, it’s been a little frustrating,” said Executive Director for Parks and Recreation Phil St. Clair. “But the frustration really lies with the salary; the salary for the zoo director is about $25,000 dollars less than the low side of comparable zoos like Potawatomi.”

Tonight, public discussions began on a possible management change at the zoo. Up to this point it, running things has always been the city’s responsibility.

Now, the not for profit Potawatomi Zoological Society has proposed taking over.

While debate over the proposal began in front of a South Bend Common Council committee, the final call lies with the South Bend Parks and Recreation Board.

Parks Director St. Clair has yet to endorse the public-private management partnership, and says he won’t until his questions are answered. “The type of model that's put in place you want something that benefits the zoo as well as the city, you want something that takes into consideration the employees that you currently have at the zoo, something that takes into consideration how you're going to maintain your assets at the zoo and the animal population, something you have to take into consideration is how does it impact the public.”
The Potawatomi Zoological Society believes it can increase private donations and get more grants if it takes over zoo operations.

The society feels there are some donors who won’t give money to a zoo that’s funded by taxpayers and managed by city employees, who will donate, if a not for profit private corporation is in charge.

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