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RiverQuarium eliminates CEO position

Sanders Lewallen, CEO of Flint RiverQuarium, says that the facility is a “very expensive operation to run,” and that there hasn’t been a serious fundraising campaign in more than three years. Lewallen calls the RiverQuarium’s financial situation “manageable.”

Sanders Lewallen, CEO of Flint RiverQuarium, says that the facility is a “very expensive operation to run,” and that there hasn’t been a serious fundraising campaign in more than three years. Lewallen calls the RiverQuarium’s financial situation “manageable.”

ALBANY, Ga. — The Flint RiverQuarium has announced a reduction in force, eliminating the position held by CEO Sanders Lewallen.

The RiverQuarium board voted on the measures Monday night, according to spokesperson Wendy Bellacomo. The board voted to cut the CEO's position as a cost-cutting measure, Bellacomo said.

Board Chair Emily Jean McAfee will serve as the temporary CEO on a volunteer basis.

"Sanders joined the RiverQuarium at a very challenging time," McAfee said. "We greatly value the talent and dedication he has shown to the organization, but regrettably the budget situation forced us to make this extremely tough decision. We wish Sanders only the best and know that with his experience and expertise he has a very bright future ahead."

Lewallen has been at the RiverQuarium since June 2011, when he was hired to replace former CEO Scott Loehr.

Bellacomo said that Lewallen was paid a severance, but that the details of that would have to be discussed with McAfee, who wouldn't be available until today.

The RiverQuarium's 2011 Form 990, which was filed with the IRS in May of 2012, doesn't list Lewallen's salary, but does state the RiverQuarium's operating budget topped $1 million for 2011.

The 2010 Form 990 shows that Loehr reported a $99,000 salary with an operating budget of $1.8 million.

The decision to cut the position could position the RiverQuarium for a merger with Chehaw, a move some on the Albany City Commission have been pushing.

Albany City Manager James Taylor did not address the RiverQuarium's decision to remove the CEO position, but said he wished Lewallen well.

Taylor has urged the City Commission, which has been wrestling with its own budget, to forego what has become an annual payment to the RiverQuarium.

The commission, however, agreed to give the facility $150,000 to prop it up after a plea from Lewallen.

Comments

chinaberry25 1 year, 9 months ago

Wonder what his salary was setting them back?

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Cartman 1 year, 9 months ago

Sanders Lewallen, CEO of Flint RiverQuarium, says that the facility is a “very expensive operation to run,...”

True dat.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 9 months ago

Now we're talking. Fold the mud puddle in with Chehaw. Give ownership of the puddle and Chehaw to a private not profit community group. Watch it grow.

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Oldguy 1 year, 9 months ago

Why did it need a CEO or board??? It is just a glorified fish bowl stuck in the arm pit of Albany. Offer it to Bass Pro Shop as a building site enhancement and see if they will build a store around it, they have bigger tanks in some of their stores. That would send traffic to downtown and help employment in Albany. Just do something with some imagination so tax payers do not have to pay for it.

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agirl_25 1 year, 9 months ago

Do you honestly think a Bass Pro Shop would build in the Albany area? Where is the nearest one anyway? They are nice and a fun shop to visit but I wonder if a BPS would ever consider a place like Albany. Altho Sam's does a bang up business so maybe it isn't so far fetched after all, if there isn't one too close. I am not an outdoor type person but even I enjoy going to BPS and can spend a while in one.

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Cartman 1 year, 9 months ago

Macon has two Interstate highways too.

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oldster 1 year, 9 months ago

As nice as the Riverquarium is and no matter how well it is run, I think it was a mistake to build it here because there is not a big enough population with enough disposable income in this area to support it. I wish them well.

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Moe 1 year, 9 months ago

Let's be clear. Riverquarium was built on the lie that it would be self supporting. Is anyone really surprised that it remains a continual drain on our budget? If every Albanian with a job bought a ticket, it still would not recover its cost or cover its budget. Remember this when Jeff Sinyard or another country club crank wants you to vote another tax against yourself.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 9 months ago

Riverquarium wasn't Jeff Sinyard's baby. That project was hatched by the wannabe trust fund set.

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ZCorp 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes, if I was in a variety political office, I would greatly encourage Chehaw Park to take over the River-Aquarium. Then the Albany, Georgia of the year 2020, can look promising.

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whattheheck 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, let's not forget that Chehaw is and has been getting a $1 million annual supplement as well as bundles of SPLOST money. With all of that, has its management been able to make it self supporting? No, as the next year will show when the subsidy runs out.

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Amazed2 1 year, 9 months ago

Only people that made money was ATI

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waltspecht 1 year, 9 months ago

Don't forget the Contractors that built it.

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Oldguy 1 year, 9 months ago

Don't put that extra burden on Chehaw Park. That is where it should have been built in the first place, to accompany the wildlife displays. I still say someone in authority should contact Bass Pro Shops or one of the other big store outdoor supply stores, nearest one is 100 miles away.

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whattheheck 1 year, 9 months ago

I would think the objective, if there was one, was to put it near the river which actually seems to make sense, don't you think? And tying it in with downtown makes sense also. Thinking it would be self supporting and building it in the first place is where sense was left out. The only bright spot is the State of GA owns the facility rather than the city so they are holding the old maid card..

Connecting the two venues and expecting savings isn't going to happen. The RQ has little staff left to feed consolidation savings and requires a number of "on site" personnel. Differences in the type of animals being housed requires a certain number of folks that do more than throw a bone to a lion or a squid to the fishes. The animals in care are a very large part of the basically fixed cost for both facilities.

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alleebrin 1 year, 9 months ago

Pains me to say I told you so, but it's just another step downhill. Now how interesting are loggerhead turtles and giant catfish! Really! This is not a community to have pride in its surroundings; just accomplished at trashing everything!!

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chinaberry25 1 year, 9 months ago

Loggerhead turtles are salt water. Do they have salt water in it? Plus they are protected and weigh 2000 pounds, so I doubt they have they for they need them to breed. All said and done, the man must have been desperate for a job to take a job at that place. They must have promised him snowballs in June for it is never going to be self supporting. Albany did not pay to have it built, the state did, so it sounded good idea at the time. Just like the civic center. The best you could do is get some rich folks to support it like the one in Atlanta. They should feel sorry for the rest of the state and open their wallets. Someone like Bill Gate foundation or Phoebe Foundation. Give back to the community, so to speak.

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Cartman 1 year, 9 months ago

You can't unspend money that's already been spent, but you can control your future losses. Here's some money saving suggestions:

  1. Release the fish and turtles into the Flint.
  2. Turn off the pumps and filters.
  3. Turn off the lights.
  4. Lock the doors.
  5. Put a For Sale sign in the front.
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Amazed2 1 year, 9 months ago

Call Bill White and lets do a Fish Fry!!

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dingleberry 1 year, 9 months ago

Albany has three venues on life support. The RQ is in the forefront now but ACRI and Chehaw are not near self supporting either. It's time for the politicians, business, and civic leaders to get together and decide whether there is a future for any of these and whether public funds will be spent to help them survive. Falling into another category of "sucking wind" and needing continued support are the civic center and municipal auditorium.

These venues need to be looked at as a "package" since public money for support is a common denominator. All are in trouble, and so are the taxpayers!

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