City to delay funding for penguin exhibit at Mesker Park zoo


EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — COVID-19 is taking another toll on the Mesker Park Zoo, this time impacting funding for a new penguin exhibit.

The exhibit is already under construction but the Evansville City Council is expected to repeal $460,000 worth of funds from the project until 2021. Councilman Ron Beane tells Eyewitness News this is because of about a three million dollar shortfall in tax revenue amid the pandemic.

“We looked for everything we could find in the budget to cut, the Mayor’s Office did a great job locating things,” said Beane.

The project however doesn’t rely solely on the City’s funding.

“The City has been making a contribution for several years and then we’ve been fundraising through private donors on the side. What we’re doing is zeroing out the money just for 2020. So it’ll come back next year and essentially the City’s contribution isn’t going to change,” said Erik Beck. Beck says funding from the private donors, like Tropicana, is what’s enabled them to already start the construction.

“Zoos were closed for a long time, March-June and even now we’re open but at a very limited capacity, about half of what we normally see on a given day. Our bills don’t change. The amount of money we spent on our animal care, our welfare, our nutrition, our medical care doesn’t change,” said Beck.

Councilman Beane says the reallocation of funds will greatly help the city out and he’s pleased the zoo can continue their project as-scheduled. The council is expected to repeal the funds at its next meeting on August 24th.

Officials say some of the penguins are expected to arrive at the zoo as early as this fall. The exhibit is expected to open sometime during Summer 2021.

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(This story was originally published on Aug. 10, 2020)

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