Is it legal for the city to fund RiverQuarium? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Is it legal for the city to fund RiverQuarium?

July 12, 2007

Albany - The future of Albany's Riverquarium hangs in the balance. The Riverquairium desperately needs money, and faces closure in the next three weeks unless the city bails them out.

They requested more than a quarter of a million dollars from the city, which pales in comparison to the amount of money that other organizations receive from the city each year. But can the city legally give money to the Riverquarium? The city attorney says no.

When it comes to Flint Riverquarium funding, the bottom line is city commissioners and staff want to keep it afloat. "I know that the Riverquarium must continue in some fashion and that's the approach we're taking," said City Manager Alfred Lott.

"I think the majority will be in support of the Riverquarium to make sure downtown continues to grow," said Commissioner Jon Howard.

"I would really like to find a way to keep the Riverquarium open," said Commissioner Dorothy Howard.

But the question now is, how can the city fund the Riverquarium when it may not even be legal because it's a private not for profit organization. "It's unfortunate that we're in this situation," said Lott, "but the law is what it is and it's our intention to work it out."

Just as the city has been able to fund places like the Civic Center and Chehaw, though that's a little different.

"The Civic Center, we own the property, we own the function and it is a city function," said Lott. "Chehaw is a recreational function. We have an agreement with them, therefore it's legitimate. They're not a not for profit organization, they're an agency that provides services for us in that respect as opposed to the Riverquarium, which is a not for profit and whom we have no connection to right now."

But through ADICA, the city may be able to funnel some money to help save the Riverquarium. He said, "There are some other private/public uses that ADICA is there for and possibly we can utilize that course of action."

Riverquarium CEO Scott Loehr says he's confident that something will be worked out soon, and he believes there's no need to lock the doors. He said, "At this point no, because talks are ongoing with city staff and ultimately city commission will make a decision on Riverquarium funding and that funding is a key component in the continued delivery of programs and services by the Riverquarium to Albany residents."

City commissioners will hear proposals from city staff as early as Tuesday and may make a final decision July 24th.

One problem with this process is that the Riverquairum didn't ask the city for money until commissioners were on the verge of approving their FY 2008 budget.

Friday night, a look at how much tax money is spent on the Flint Riverquarium, the Civic Center and Parks at Chehaw, and is it a worthwhile investment?

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