Topeka City Council to discuss proposal to outsource Topeka Zoo operations

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – City leaders in Topeka are discussing taking a less hands-on role at the Topeka Zoo.

The Topeka City Council is looking at a proposal that would outsource day-to-day operations to Friends of the Topeka Zoo.

Friends of the Topeka Zoo is a non-profit that already has a hand in Topeka Zoo operations. FOTZ is in charge of things like fundraising, admissions, and guest services.

Under this proposal, the city of Topeka would still own the Topeka Zoo and its assets. FOTZ would be in charge of the daily operations.

FOTZ Vice President Fred Patton said the move would make the Topeka Zoo more efficient.

“We have, in a sense, two finance departments, two HR, two legal, those types of things,” Patton said. “Then I think we can raise more money. People don’t want to donate money to a city, a taxing organization, but we’ve had really good luck raising money as a non-profit.”

Patton said the city’s contribution to the zoo has stayed flat for ten years.

At the same time, the Topeka Zoo has expanded with things like Camp Cowabunga, Kay’s Garden and a new giraffe exhibit that’s set to open in 2022.

This expansion was made possible through fundraising by FOTZ. If the city does not move forward with the partnership, Patton said city leaders need to invest more money in the Topeka Zoo.

“We’ve added new exhibits and those exhibits need zookeepers,” Patton said. “The city provides the zookeeper side and so if we don’t make a change the city either has to kick in more money or you’re going to have to start cutting back what you see here.”

Patton said things like an operations fee and moving city employees to FOTZ are things that would need to be ironed out with the city. He said they have presented similar proposals over the past decade.

The Topeka City Council will discuss the proposal at its meeting at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night in the Municipal Court Building at 214 SE 8th Avenue. This is a discussion item, meaning the council is not expected to vote on the proposal this week.

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