RiverQuarium to get money infusion - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

RiverQuarium to get money infusion


Albany city leaders may come to the rescue of one of the city's major attractions. Today, city commissioners tentatively approved a $150,000 request for Flint RiverQuarium, a facility they describe as a valuable asset.

The facility has suffered financial hardships over the last few years, raising concern that it may have to close. City leaders say they won't let that happen.

The RiverQuarium turned to more private donors as well as Dougherty County Commissioners to maintain operations. The center's budget has been dramatically slashed in recent years, but Commissioners say the center teaches Albany's youth and helps our economy.

The cascading waterfalls outside the Flint RiverQuarium are a gateway to knowledge about Georgia's waterways. And the lessons extend year round for school aged children who go to summer camp at the center.

"Without this facility we would not have a venue that can demonstrate how water affects our community, our economy, our people. And we have a chance to see this first hand," said Tommy Gregors, Flint RiverQuarium Chief Operating Officer.

The center has taken some harsh budget cuts, and has reduced its budget by nearly half in the last five years. And questions over whether to close the facility have arisen while the city continues to tighten its belt.

"The taxpayers in Georgia invested in building and constructing the Flint RiverQuarium here in Albany. We have to ensure that that investment is protected and it can grow, and moves forward," said Gregors.

"They are an economic impact to our community. They bring folks from outside to our community. They eat in our restaurants; they buy gas and things of that nature. So, we generate a lot of revenue just from these organizations being in our city limits," said Christopher Pike, City Commissioner.

Gregors says the RiverQuarium has been successfully operating on a lean budget, and says his goal is to make the facility more sustainable. "A lot of efforts have gone in in the last several years to reduce costs particularly. We're continuing to look at that. We're looking at every aspect of the operation and staffing, how we service our visitors and the public, which is an important part of making sure the RiverQuarium is successful," said Gregors.

 Commissioners say funding for the RiverQuarium could become a permanent fixture in the city budget. Gregors says the county allocated more than $500,000 in SPLOST money for the RiverQuarium.

He also says the center has seen a dramatic increase in field trip bookings through the schools, which is helping generate revenue. Two commissioners weren't at today's meeting, but all commissioners who were there voted for the plan. They'll take a final vote next Tuesday.

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