Tuesday, January 29, 2019

City Council Approves Contract Negotiations with New Zoo Management Company

The Jackson City Council voted unanimously to enter contract negotiations with ZoOceanarium, LLC to manage the Jackson Zoo at a special meeting yesterday.  ZoOceanarium will replace the Jackson Zoological Society, which has managed the zoo since 1986. 

The zoo has fallen on hard times in recent years as attendance fell from over 185,000 ten years ago to 76,6000 visitors in 2018. The city had to give $200,000 to the zoo last August. The city also had to repay $350,000 to the Department of Finance & Administration after it was discovered the former executive director spent $350,000 of state bond funds on operations.

The Board of Directors voted last March to move the zoo from its current location on West Capitol Street to LeFleur's Bluff state park on Lakeland Drive.  Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba strongly opposed the move.  The lease with the JZS expired in October.  Mayor Lumumba took advantage of the upcoming expiration and issued a request for proposals for the management of the zoo.

The companies submitted bids, ZoOceanarium, LLC, Jackson Zoological Society, and Zoo Managerial Services, LLC.   ZoOceanarium earned the highest score, beating JZS by 2.6 points.

The City Council discussed ZoOceanarium's proposal with company representatives yesterday at a special session.  The proposal is posted below.

The company is incorporated in Missouri.  It operates several zoos and aquariums. Managing Partner Chris Davis and Erin Clark, Director of Projects, spoke to the City Council.  The bid states the company has 120 employees.  It is best known for operating Dubai Safari and the Green Planet in Dubai.  It also operates the Longemont Zoo and Safari Park in Shanghai, China.

The lease will be for five years.   Mr. Davis said he visited the Jackson Zoo.  He said he would evaluate the zoo.  He said some staff would have the change to remain while bringing in ZoOceanarium employees. He said it was "too early" to determine cost of operations.  Councilman Dekeither Stamps asked if  zoo annual memberships would be honored.  Mr. Davis said they would be while Ms. Clark said it would be foolish to reject those who support the zoo with their checkbooks.  Mr. Stamps also asked if the company would be required to provide regular financial reports to the city instead of audits that were 12-18 months old.  Mayor Lumumba said the company would provide at least quarterly financial statements.

The Lumumba administration will enter contract negotiations with ZoOceanarium.  The City Council will vote on wether to approve the contract. 

Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Robert Blaine said under questioning from Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay that a non-profit organization would be needed for fund-raising.  Dr. Blaine said there was a possibility the Jackson Zoological Society could be used for fund-raising. 


Anonymous said...

If all of the City Council voted for this, it can't possibly be good.

Anonymous said...

Great plan Mayor. Use JZS for fundraising - they have done such a stupendous job ofor that over the past few years. Keep on keeping on - the city has plenty of money to support this west Jackson facility just for the sake of continuing what has always been.

Anonymous said...

This is the phase of negotiations where the mayor and councilmen find out what's in it for them.

Anonymous said...

Do the greenhorns at ZoOceanarium know that historically the funding they are counting on from the City does not arrive reliably on-time and in the agreed-upon amounts? ZoOceanarium’s boast that the Zoo can become “self-sustainable” in its current location is a serious case of naïveté.

Kingfish said...

Part of the problem was the ED picked board members, or had a disproportionate say in who they could be.

The study from a couple of years ago chastised the society for having a weak board. It said other boards of similar organizations were geared towards fund-raising, unlike JZS.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, like the list of fundraising suggestions on Page 49 haven't all been tried before in some form or another. LMAO.

Anonymous said...

Close.The. Zoo.

Anonymous said...

So... JZS can stick around and raise money for the new zoo management company who (presumably, since they were selected for the job) will not support the plan to move the zoo to Lefleur's Bluff. Who wouldn't want to be part of JZS and support that???

Anonymous said...

Doesn't JZS own almost all the animals?

Anonymous said...

I wish I thought new management would help the zoo survive, but it is not. The location is the problem. Unless it is moved to a better location, Jackson will soon become a city without a zoo. .

Unknown said...

Two hundred miles north of here Memphis has one of the most successful zoos in the nation. On a nice weekend there are so many visitors you can't get near the place. Reason? City support, management and LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

Anonymous said...

good lord. this 'management' group is going to raise the stature of the zoo? their documentation looks like sophomore business class final projects....

Anonymous said...

So a company this size, operating worldwide, uses LegalZoom for incorporations? And the Managing Partner, Chris Davis, has a serious gap in his resume from doing anything meaningful with Zoos or animals. Sketchy group.

Anonymous said...

Here, here 2:41. The same for H'burg and NOLA to the south.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day this about segregation. If the zoo was relocated in a better/safer location whites would over run the place. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

The city can't fix potholes, They can't control the gangs. They can't keep the sewers and water lines fixed. They can't keep the streets from caving in. They are losing businesses right and the tax base associated with them. Most of the city council is a joke.

And they will revive the zoo and make it famous once again?

!!!! BRAVO !!!!

We salute them.

Anonymous said...

4:31: Okay, at your instruction, I thought about it. Conclusion: it’s the crime, the nastiness of the area, and the fact that I desire to do better with my life than go to that area. If that’s what segregation is, then tuff nuts.

Anonymous said...

5:26, you forgot to mention the roving packs of feral dogs. You know, the ones that routinely kill zoo animals.

Unknown said...

My primary concern is jobs. I understand that some of the current zoo staff may be let go - but, it would be a shame to have the bulk of the workforce let go merely to have an outside team come in and, five years later, depart. IMO, the current workforce is a strength/benefit for the city. Replace management and the office staff - but, there should be an effort made to keep and retain Mississippi workers.

Anonymous said...


This time I'll type slower. The folks in charge of the zoo DON"T WANT WHITES OVER RUNNING THE PLACE in fact I don't think they want us around at all and they damn well know we're not coming to the zoo where it is now.

Anonymous said...

The management is in AbuDabi? And they talk to the City Council over Skype?

Yeah, this will work.

Anonymous said...

It's a perception of a functioning zoo.

Anonymous said...

i wonder how much they want from the city to run it. seems like they havent' discussed money yet....

this 'company' will pull out before 3 years go by..

Anonymous said...

A lot of red flags go up with this “company”. To add to the growing list is Mr. Davis started another company like this the called A-Z Consulting. Yet his resume says he’s a consultant with this firm. Also, these people have mostly marine mammal credentials and experience. According to what they listed they are use to managing institutions with multi million dollar budgets. They really do not understand the dynamics of the zoo here. They had very few answers in the council meeting for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I worry for the welfare of those poor animals under what is very likely a scheme.

Anonymous said...

Another blow for Jackson, courtesy of our esteemed leaders. Seriously, does anyone think that a company out of AD is going to come in and reform our zoo? Why? They cannot possibly expect to make money or even break even so what is their motivation for "investing" in Jackson? And what are the polticos expecting from agreeing to this? I'm sure there's not profit motivation involved. This is crazy.

Anonymous said...

This firm obviously is quite shady and they have fooled the city administrators. But then again. Have they? They will be the final nail in the coffin of the zoo and the administration can say we tried and that they, Zooceanarium, failed us and brought the zoo to closing.
This firm also has drank the AZA kool-aid and will try to ram their policies down the zoo’s throat like the former and current administrator. Look at all that has happened because this zoo has followed and tried to maintain AZA accreditation. And after all this they dropped their membership and yet all them threats made never came about. The zoo needs to focus on reinventing itself and surviving and forget about AZA and this firm Zooceanarium. If they had. The zoo would still have elephants and a whole bunch more to celebrate. Let’s not forget it’s the zoo’s one hundredth birthday.

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