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RiverQuarium gets $150,000 from city

The Flint RiverQuarium

The Flint RiverQuarium

ALBANY, Ga. — Given what many are calling a “temporary reprieve” and what Executive Director Sanders Lewallen labeled “a fighting chance,” the financially strapped Flint RiverQuarium received a $150,000 cash injection from the Albany City Commission Tuesday morning.

With Commissioners Tommie Postell and Bob Langstaff voting against, the commission decided to supply $50,000 to the state-owned aquarium for each of the next three months as Lewallen and a group of the attraction’s ardent supporters try to find long-term funding that will keep the RiverQuarium open.

“This gives us a fighting chance, and that’s what we were asking for,” Lewallen said after the commission’s vote at a special called meeting. “I’m confident we’ll be able to find other funding sources now that we’ve been given a little breathing room.

“There are larger granting foundations that we haven’t even approached in the last several years, and we’re going to make an appeal to all of them. This gives us a chance to stay alive and fight again.”

Langstaff made it clear that he did not support funding the aquarium.

“I hope the RiverQuarium does well, but I’m not going to vote for this,” he said. “I don’t see a light at the end of this tunnel; I see it as something we’re going to have to do again and again and again. If we’re going to be a funding source for the RiverQuarium, we’re going to have to have a say about the cuts, too.

“My wife and I support and have contributed to the RiverQuarium, and I want badly for it to succeed. But I don’t want to do it this way, by throwing money at it.”

Langstaff criticized aquarium officials for not coming up with a plan to cut costs even deeper than they had.

“I keep dancing around this, but the truth is you have an executive director at the RiverQuarium making an almost six-figure salary and an executive director of Chehaw, and I believe one person could do both,” the Ward V commissioner said. “There’s got to be a better way than giving them 50 grand a month and saying ‘Have at it.’”

Postell asked Lewallen if he could guarantee additional funding would come in if the city approved the infusion of cash.

“I can’t assure anything; I don’t have a crystal ball,” Lewallen said. “But we’ll need around $300,000 in addition to the $600,000 we bring in from receipts at the RiverQuarium to meet our budget. If we get half of that from you, I think we can raise the other $150,000 pretty quickly. We have some supporters who’ve indicated they want to help.”

Postell called Lewallen’s comments “hypothetical.”

“I don’t deal in hypothetical; I deal in reality,” the Ward VI commissioner said. “You can’t give me a guarantee, so we’ll be left playing Russian roulette with taxpayer money.”

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said the RiverQuarium’s budget cuts show that officials there are serious about making the attraction self-sufficient.

“The RiverQuarium was given to us by the state, and I believe we have an obligation to do everything we can to keep it open,” Hubbard said. “We’ve been supporting Chehaw (with more than $1 million annually) over the years, and I feel we have an obligation to support our other quality-of-life facilities as well.

“When you go to these boards and foundations in search of funding, they want to know how much support you have in your community. I want to go on record as being in favor of what you do.”

Lewallen said he will begin fundraising efforts immediately.

Comments

jglass 1 year, 11 months ago

Where did the city get the money?

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whattheheck 1 year, 11 months ago

From you, of course. There is always money to be found for things that are wanted but not necessarily for things that are needed! That is why we have politicians, to sort out the needs from the wants.

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bigbob 1 year, 11 months ago

I wonder if these commisioners waste their own money the same way they throw away the taxpayers money.

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jglass 1 year, 11 months ago

I know it comes from us the tax payer. But with no money and cuts and cuts and cuts, I just don't understand.

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MRKIA 1 year, 11 months ago

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR THIS JOINT WILL BE OUT OF BUSINESS.

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Momof3 1 year, 11 months ago

Not if they keep supplying money to them.

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alleebrin 1 year, 11 months ago

And how interesting is a loggerhead turtle? Or a giant catfish? Face it, the acquarium is a losing proposition and is dying. How much more taxpayer money will be put into this failed venture????

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iko 1 year, 11 months ago

The people who said this thing would be self-supporting were frauds. Remember that next time your idiot commissioners want another boondoggle.

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Bulldawg 1 year, 11 months ago

Why don't the commissioners just roll down their windows and throw our money out the window. That's what they might as well be doing by continuing to give the riverquarium money. I think that all the commissioners that voted for the funding should pay for thefunding themselves.

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VSU 1 year, 11 months ago

If they start throwing money out the window, i wanna be there to grab it so I can get some of my money back.

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AlbanyObserver 1 year, 11 months ago

Is this a grant, or a loan? If it is a grant, what assurances did the organization offer that the financial straits would be resolved within the 90 day period? After all, wouldn't it be important to only have a grant if there were a plan for the organization to pull out of the red?

If it's a loan, what are the terms?

We are just on the road to nowhere but financial ruin with the "free government money" mentality.

AlbanyObserver

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Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe we need to put our message in language our leaders can understand.

Pull ease cull ohs tha riv er quar e um.

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waltspecht 1 year, 11 months ago

What, if any retribution has been wroght on those that sold this Aquarium idea to the City? I am sure there are still some around that helped pass this idea. When will this City understand they do not have the Citizen base to support these boondogles? I can still remember Roy Clarks appearance at the Civic Center, heavily underwritten by Miller Brewing, still not draw a large crowd. The people seem to want something for nothing. The support base was never here for this Aquarium, but the optimists were just too blind to see that.

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

Well heck it does not even loose a Million a year do whats the problem? Only looses about $600,000. Not bad for City of Albany. Kind of amazed how quick the City can find $50,000 a month to keep life in this dead fish.

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

Building was all about the 11% development fee that ATI got to keep. Thats also why we have the Blue Arch with fake stone base. Tommy Chatmon' s ATI recieved 11%. In the case of the Riverquarium that was about $3 million dollars. Kind of a re distribution of wealth thing even before Obama put that wording out

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FryarTuk 1 year, 11 months ago

Lot of money has changed hands among the beautiful people on these building projects. I don't want to see another dollar given to these crazy projects including the civil rights center, residential construction, downtown development or sports programs. Stop wasting our money. The taxpaying citizens in this town are going broke due to the insipid idiocy and profligate spenders.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 11 months ago

Wow the Bull crap gets better and better! Lewallen said "he will begin fundraising efforts immediately".....So he has been sitting on his ass waiting for the city to pump money in before he would try to help himself....More great Management ideas at the RiverQuarium.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

AuntieDee is hopefully out rallying the Black Community to help provide the much needed funding. Tommie Postell can hold the bag of money in his sleigh and bring it all in to the storehouse. Merry Christmas!

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FryarTuk 1 year, 11 months ago

All those people who were going to make a bundle off their meager $15 K investment when AT was organized can now pony up for the mess that was created. BTW wasn't there some federal folks around looking for some of the original crew. How much money was taken by these folks from the federal emergency loan program and never paid back?

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tocar 1 year, 11 months ago

The taxpayers did not want the Riverquarium in the first place. We are not a city of tourism and who wants to go down and pay to see a catfish or a loggerhead turtle? We knew this project would not fly from the beginning. The commissioners are wasting hard earned taxpayer monies. Downtown is not ever going to develop as a favorite place to visit. What a mess you have created! If the Riverquarium is not self supporting by now, the doors need to be closed. Why does'nt the city sell the civic center to Albany State? We don't have anything that the taxpayers want to see or do there either.

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VietVet1 1 year, 11 months ago

“This gives us a fighting chance, and that’s what we were asking for,” Lewallen said

Yep, and the Civic Center & Chehaw Park continue to have their hands out. Yet the beat goes on.

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

The parking decks downtown were built by ATI to handle the influx of visitors to the IMAX Theater and Riveraquarium. ATI spent or managed about 13million $ dollars for that. Hired a management company from Maco to run the parking decks. Guess what hardly nobody in Albany parked in the decks until the DCSS, City, County, WGL got them declared FREE for employees. Now what few people go downtown other than employee parking a few park in the free deck. The decks could not support the $80,000 a yr parking booth attendants much less pay fir upkeep. Beside we talk about Alnany Histiry hell they wiped out the whole city bolck to build the concrete decks fir all the tourist comi.g to the big fish tank. Welcome to Albany!

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agirl_25 1 year, 11 months ago

I need to pay more attention to what is going on in Albany....there is an IMAX theater in Albany??????? No way............!!!

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

At 11% management fee that means ATI got about 1.4$$ Million in fees to manage it above construction cost. Same deal for Civil Rights Museum that is broke all the time ATI spent or managed several million dollars and ATI got 11% of that project. The 11% deal us why we have so many dead useless failures They made money on the front end and now the taxpayers are stuck with the mess including that damm Ugly Blue Arch that ATI sold the city for a cost of about $400,000 dollars. Well that money could run the Rivetquarium for only 8 minths. ATI got 11% of the Arch so thats only $40000 to give it to us.

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Hoodie 1 year, 11 months ago

The GA Aquarium is having trouble with money Albany doesn't have a chance just spent $30,000 digging a well for water just for the AQ

Should've thought this thru nobody wants to pay to see fish we can go to the creek and see for free in the same ol bluehole water....

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SD4111 1 year, 11 months ago

The city of Albany didn't give the aquarium the money to build a well. The well was built with money that was granted to them. The same kind of grants used by hospitals, schools, parks, zoos, and other aquariums.

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

Dont forget the Riverquarium spent a a lot of money $$$ just a few years ago to add the bird aviary? Do they still have birds?? Another duplcation of Chehaw. If the City is going to keep feeding $$$$ to the Riverquarium then force them to turn management over to Chehaw. Eliminate the director and as many duplicate positions as possible. Rename it the Chehaw Aquarium or Chehaw Flint River Aquarium. If it can only survive on life support emergency funding request then it is time to change it or shut it down.

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

Chehaw could market it much better by making it like an extentsion center if Chehaw. Make not work either and Chehaw management may not want this facility tied around thier kneck either. The aquarium if needed at all in the area belonged at Chehaw anyway and not downtown. It only went downtown cause ATI could procure funding but now what we going to do with this large stinking big dead fish????????

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Roundman 1 year, 11 months ago

Abytaxper -- i agree with you 100% Where has Lewallen been -- He is in his office with his big salary waiting on us dumb asses to give him some more money. Why are we still doing this. He is smarter than we are. There is several more with big salaries here intown just like him. Why do we keep electing these people to give our money away. We need to really support the two that voted against giving the money. We have brought it on ourselves!!! Catfish watching & Turtle watching --- Oh so educational -- !!!

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SD4111 1 year, 11 months ago

Just wondering... How many of you have actually been to the Flint RiverQuarium?

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tocar 1 year, 11 months ago

Our commissioners did not listen to the taxpayerss regarding the Riverquarium. We did not need another money pit downtown. It is time to do something. Shut it down along with the civic center. Monies expended for these 2 facilities is being poured into a bottomless pit. Sell the civic center to Albany State. I have seen catfish and turtles all of my life.

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Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

Here's a great idea! Lets fund loft apartments downtown so people can live near the Riverquarium and visit it more frequently.

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

SD4111 fyi I personally have been twice. Once for open house when it was brand new and then once about a year later I took my son thru. No much reason to go back to see sone catfish and gators etc. Stuff most people see in local creeks and rivers. This place is like one exhibit in the large atlanta aquarium. Just not much reason to go to Albany. Yes I gave been to see a $28 million dollar alligator and turtle.

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ASURAMS24 1 year, 11 months ago

$28 million dollar alligator and turtle...wow...I thought they worked with DNR to get these animals and give them a home. Case in point, please checks your facts before you speak. Chehaw and the GA aquarium are totally different facilities than the aquarium in Albany. The Flint RiverQuarium is a non-for profit educational facility, which means they do not get money from the state! They get most of their funds by private donations. The well they just drilled was funded by a grant. The birds are all native and rehabilitated in some way… and it is nothing like the bird exhibit at Chehaw Park. The RiverQuarium’s aviary exhibit was also put into place by a grant, just like the well.

On a person level, I bring my kids to the aquarium at least twice a week, not only have we gotten close to everyone who works there, from ticketing to the people who take care of the animals, but each time we visit, they make sure we have a new and different experience. The people who work for the RiverQuarium do so from a passion for animals and the environment, not for the money. I’m sure if any of you who would like to know how much they make… they will be happy to tell you. Please don’t assume your facts are correct because you’ve heard them from the media, social networks, or your bitter neighbor… Being open minded having, positive attitude, and working together as a COMMUNITY is the ONLY way to make Albany a better place for our upcoming generations. If you are OK with Albany, GA slowly losing its life and becoming a rundown place where nobody wants to visit, cool, you have every right… Just stop bashing a place you really know nothing about… I never thought the people in the “Good Life City” would be happy with ruining the city the way a lot of you are.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 11 months ago

Roger glad to see you finally showed up to defend your fishbowl. Love your line “Being open minded having, positive attitude, and working together as a COMMUNITY is the ONLY way to make Albany a better place for our upcoming generations.” Funny you have the nerve to bring up the subject of working together…..NOT once while you are raising taxes to support you beloved lost causes have you ever considered what your raping and pillaging is doing to the rest of Albany. More and more businesses are leaving Albany for better opportunities to make a profit just across the county line. Downtown will never amount to any more than just a novelty for a few people to visit but all the while you are driving the life blood businesses out of the rest of Albany. Keep up the fine work raising those taxes and soon it will be hard to define Downtown from the rest of the blighted Albany.

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Oldguy 1 year, 11 months ago

No problem! The world will be ending on Friday so this will no longer be a problem.

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