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County gets update on RiverQuarium

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- The Flint RiverQuarium's executive director updated the Dougherty County Commission on the aquarium's progress at the commission's regular meeting Wednesday.

Scott Loehr said the aquarium has done quite well in its second quarter

and its staff is dedicated to keeping the momentum going.

"We are looking into diversifying our programs and offering more lectures," he told commissioners.

The executive director said public concern for the environment has bolstered more interest in facilities like the aquarium. Loehr said programs like the aquarium's day camps have proven very successful.

"The day camps started a couple of years ago and are now operating at 115 percent capacity, which means 68 children attended the camps with only 60 slots available," he said.

Loehr said the aquarium's alligator exhibit that features the albino

alligator Moonshine continues to attract attention and visitors.

"It has been the year of the alligator at the RiverQuarium," he said. "We

recently purchased Moonshine from the Mississippi museum. He was previously on loan to us, so now he is here to stay."

Loehr said the 5-year-old albino alligator is one of less than 100 known to exist in the wild and in captivity. He said the RiverQuarium is looking forward to preparing for Moonshine's transition into adulthood.

The aquarium has also stepped up its marketing techniques and is combating the tight economy with promotions and deals.

"We recently had a promotion on Veterans Day where all active-duty military personnel were granted free admission, and this past month we had a 'Season of Giving' where all city and county residents were able to visit the aquarium at a reduced cost," said Loehr.

The aquarium has also embraced new technology and Internet marketing by forming a Facebook page and Twitter account.

"We have over 1,100 Facebook fans, which I'm told is very good," said Loehr.

The RiverQuarium is also being advertised in other markets such as Valdosta and is participating for the second year in Experience Albany.

Loehr said the operating partnership between the aquarium and Thronateeska Heritage Center that was forged at the beginning of this month has also proved profitable to both entities.

"Under that umbrella, we are trying to do more collaborative programs. We are going to offer what we call a 'Sweetheart Deal' on Valentine's Day for couples," he said. "It will be a joint admission ticket to the

aquarium and Thronateeska."

The Flint RiverQuarium's total revenue for the second quarter was $751,400 with expenses totaling $733,300. A total of $156,800 was donated to the aquarium through contributions, grants and gifts.

Loehr said after Wednesday's meeting he felt the update was well-received by the Commission and that the RiverQuarium is grateful for the funding the body provides.

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard complimented Loehr and the Flint RiverQuarium on their progress and their ability to think outside the box.

"I want to commend you on forging the partnership with Thronateeska and by generating these kinds of ideas," Sinyard said.

The commission approved appointments of incumbents William Ashberry, Don Butts and J. Dell Bush for two-year terms to the county's Board of Tax Assessors.

The Payroll Development Authority recommended and the commission approved the appointment of incumbent James Griffin to another term.