Albany -- Tuesday, board and staff members appealed to Albany city commissioners. They need a total of $600,000 to keep the Riverquarium open, otherwise, they may be forced to shut down by the end of July.
Businesses are expensive to operate, but it costs quite a bit more to keep the Flint Riverquarium running. "This is an expensive facility," said Board Member Dr. Lindsay Boring. "The building itself is an expensive machine. We've got to maintain water temperatures..."
Each month, utility bills are about $17,000, mostly due to the aquarium itself. It requires pumps to de-chlorinate water in the tanks-- which run up a big bill. Plus, there are specialized staff members. "We have to have very highly trained staff to keep these animals alive," said Boring.
Admissions and sales only bring in 2/3 of what the Aquarium needs to function. The budget is $1.8 Million, but they only collect $1.2 Million, leaving a $600,000 gap that someone has to fill. RiverQuarium members hope the city will pitch in more than half of that, asking for $350,000. They asked the county government for $250,000 Monday.
"Now is the time to look at what duplicate services are there for all these entities," said City Commissioner Bob Langstaff, Jr.
Langstaff says first, he wants RiverQuarium staff to look at other options, perhaps joining forces with places like Chehaw and Thronateeska and combining services. "It's a time like this, where it's a crisis, that I think that it's an optimum time for those entities to come together."
Langstaff and a majority of the commission voted to have the city finance department take a look at financial statements from the aquarium, to see what's truly needed to keep the doors open and to see if the city has the money available to help. Commissioner Bo Dorough says they have to.
"Let's be honest. We can't let this thing close. If we have any concern, any commitment to downtown revitalization, it's the Flint Riverquarium," said Bo Dorough, City Commissioner.
The Department of Natural Resources actually owns the building that houses the Flint Riverquarium. One suggestion was to see if they would consider helping the Riverquarium stay open.
A suggestion was also made to contact the Department of Community Affairs, which operates two museums in Macon, to see if they would be willing to run the Riverquarium. The county commission will vote Wednesday on whether they will provide $250,000 to the Riverquarium.