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Dallas Zoo Headed For Private Management


By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX –

The Dallas Zoo appears to be in for a management make-over. KERA's BJ Austin says City Council members like the idea of putting the Zoo into "private" hands, and plan to vote on it next week.

Dallas City Council members are generally enthusiastic about turning the Zoo over to the Dallas Zoological Society. Parks Director Paul Dyer says an annual management fee paid to Dallas Zoo Management would immediately save the city almost five million dollars -- helping with the budget problems. Mayor Tom Leppert agrees, but says this change is bigger than that.

Leppert: I think this is an important step. I almost want to downplay the budget pieces. It's important given all the discussion we're talking about. But the real objective is to elevate this Zoo and make special things happen at it.

Zoological Society President Michael Meadows believes private management will open opportunities for those special things to happen in the long term, and save the Zoo in the short-term city budget crisis.

Meadows: What we don't want to see is the Dallas Zoo lose momentum. What we don't want to see is major areas of the Zoo closed. What we don't want to see is a lot of our dear friends and colleagues lose their jobs.

In the struggle to close a 190 million dollar budget gap, city officials are recommending 19 Zoo exhibits close, and at least 40 employees be laid off. ALL Zoo employees will be terminated under the management shift. But Meadows expects MOST of them will be rehired by Dallas Zoo Management. .

Email BJ Austin