Watertown lawmakers express support for spending $70K more on zoo

Zoo and city meet

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - To help the Thompson Park zoo achieve its five-year strategic plan goals, zoo officials are asking for $100,000 from the city of Watertown for the next few years.

That's about $70,000 more a year than it's currently getting.

City council members sat down with zoo officials Monday night to talk about it.

Mayor Jeff Smith says he's in favor of the extra spending.

"I think it is an asset to our community, it's an asset to Thompson Park, it's a draw in for the region," Smith said. "We have to help it get back to a place that it was back in 2000 where it is financially stable and sustains itself.

Zoo executive director Larry Sorel says the $100,000 would go toward marketing campaigns and education programs.

I don't think that it is terribly unreasonable, especially because we want to partner with the zoo so they can be successful and be a community asset," city council member Ryan Henry-Wilkinson said.

The proposed plan also includes ideas for events and getting the zoo's accreditation back. Overall, council members say the plan is a step in the right direction, but funding would need to be looked over further.

“It’s definitely something I would be willing consider, but before I fully commit to something I have some questions that I want answered,” council member Sarah Compo said. “I want to see exactly how the money will be used -- I want to see some more details about a marketing plan.”

"Having that plan in place makes me a lot more comfortable being able to commit that kind of money moving forward," council member Jesse Roshia said. "Something that I want to look a little more I want to look a little more into in terms of the plan they've presented, but definitely a strong case to be able support the zoo moving forward."

"I agree that we need to increase what we do for them," council member Lisa Ruggiero said. "What that number is, that I need to talk to our colleagues about that to see where they are on it."

The money for the zoo would have to be approved in the city's 2021 budget.

City lawmakers are expected to start discussing the budget over the next few months.

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