Flint Riverquarium funding to be reconsidered - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Flint Riverquarium funding to be reconsidered

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  As Dougherty County leaders get close to finalizing the upcoming year's budget, there is some good news for the Flint Riverquarium.

Commissioners planned to slash all of the $250,000 they normally contribute to the Riverquarium as they struggle to balance the budget. Now, they may have come up with a way to give the attraction something. County commissioners are taking 3.5-million dollars from reserves and furloughing employees for five days to balance the budget.

They simply don't have the money they would like to give to the Flint Riverquarium. Now, they plan to ask the city to help fund another agency, so they can spread the money around.

The Flint Riverquarium is preparing to welcome their 500-thousandth visitor later this year. They say word of the attraction is getting out around the state bringing more people through the doors.

"They're doing other things while they're here so we realize we're part of the entire economic package of this community," said Scott Loehr, Flint Riverquarium Executive Director.

A majority of Dougherty County's Commissioners agree, that's why they're not willing to close the door on funding the attraction completely.

"The Riverquarium it stands for growth for Dougherty County there's a lot of things it stands for and if we're going to spend $170,000 on Keep Albany Dougherty Beautiful, I don't know why we don't spread it out a bit," said Dougherty County Commissioner Jack Stone.

That's what commissioners plan to consider, asking the city to help contribute to Keep-Albany Dougherty Beautiful so the county and reallocate some of its funding to the Riverquarium.

"I think we need to split the difference with them there because they're both equally important. We can't just dump the Riverquarium and Keep Albany Dougherty whole and healthy," said Dougherty County Commissioner Gloria Gaines.

While commissioners say they may not be able to support it at the level they have in the past, it would be something.

"The importance is that the door has been opened and there's an opportunity for negotiation," said Loehr.

Allowing the Flint Riverquarium more time in their long range plan to become less reliant on the city and county for funding.

Some commissioners also expressed interest in cutting funding to the Albany Dougherty Economic Development Commission to fund other efforts with Senior Citizens and Albany State University. That measure failed. Judy Bowles with Keep Albany Dougherty Beautiful says they've seen a 15 percent cut in the last two years and additional cuts could hurt the organization.

The Flint Riverquarium will bring their financial statements to the Commission meeting next week. County Commissioners only have two weeks to finalize their budget and approve it before the July first deadline.

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