Our View: Power transfer at Duluth zoo overdue
City Hall's stand on the Lake Superior Zoo has been unwavering. And ominous. The city has made it clear it can no longer afford to operate the sprawling West Duluth park filled with four-legged attractions and Works Progress Administration-era st...
City Hall's stand on the Lake Superior Zoo has been unwavering. And ominous.
The city has made it clear it can no longer afford to operate the sprawling West Duluth park filled with four-legged attractions and Works Progress Administration-era structures and buildings. City officials even have hinted they could be forced to close the zoo, a Duluth landmark since 1923 when a West Duluth printer found a less-than-healthy baby deer in an abandoned logging camp, adopted it, named it Billy, and built a pen for it on land he convinced the city to donate.
But where the city stepped back, the Lake Superior Zoological Society stepped up. Armed with optimism, the power to pay lower wages, the ability to attract grants available only to nonprofits, and experience from 15 years of successfully running the zoo's admissions, gift shop and marketing and education programs, the society offered to take over the zoo and to keep it open.
A transfer-of-power was set for Jan. 1. With the date in mind, the zoological society hired zookeepers and other employees, scheduled training, won $100,000 in grants to help with the transition and made plans for a fundraiser.
All of which is now in jeopardy.
That's because Duluth city councilors have repeatedly delayed a vote on the transfer, some of them saying they needed more information, others no doubt listening to the groans of the union representing the zoo's former keepers. Jobs will be lost, and zookeepers working for the society will earn less than keepers who worked for the city. Never mind the existing zookeepers were offered other city positions at the same pay scale.
Today, the City Council again has the zoo on its agenda. The transfer should have been approved more than a month ago. Delays already have marred the prospects for a smooth transition. Further delays could prove damaging to the zoo's future. And a closed zoo is an alternative to dismiss.