The Scottsbluff City Council Monday evening considered a proposed Operation Support Agreement received from the Riverside Zoological Foundation.
Under the terms of the proposal, the City would agree to provide $350,000 per fiscal year for two years following agreement approval.
In the third fiscal year, the city would provide $300,000 annually, with funding increases in following years to be based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
While acknowledging the proposal, each council member expressed concerns with the terms of the agreement and the amount requested.
Council member Terry Schaub explained that the city could not afford the agreement, saying the city would have to dip into their reserves to offer that kind of support.
And council member Jeanne McKerrigan said the council needs to do something and that a deadline needs to be set to get an agreement done.
The decision was made that a committee will be formed, made up of 3 representatives from the city and 3 from the zoo to negotiate a contract that will be acceptable to both sides.
City Manager Nathan Johnson told Rural Radio News he is hoping they can find common ground by the end of the year. Johnson says their intent, with Mayor Gonzales and the rest of the council expressing their support for the zoo, is to enter negotiations with an optimistic approach and reach an agreement by the end of this month or into the month of December.
Johnson noted that with the current support contract ending in September of 2020, time is of the essence in reaching a deal.
Zoo board member and the organization’s attorney, Brenden Rice told the council they have already lost out on foundation grants because of a lack of clarity from the city.
Zoo Director Anthony Mason told they council they realize this is a negotiation, and are happy to continue the conversation.