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Chehaw makes first of planned 10 percent cuts

ALBANY — The Chehaw Park Authority announced Monday that it is restructuring its organization and cutting two management-level positions.

A month after the Albany City Commission voted to cut the $1 million subsidy it gives the wild animal park by 3 percent for each of the next four years, the authority has begun to take action it says will reduce operating expenses and strengthen the organization’s financial position. Zoo Director Kevin Hils and Marketing and Development Manager Tonya Hart were the Chehaw staff members impacted by the cuts.

“These are challenging times for all businesses,” Park Authority Chairman Scott Kemp said in a news release. “We already know that the city will begin reductions in our funding in less than two years, and the business side of our operation must be prepared for those and other economic challenges.”

Park Director Doug Porter said Monday evening park visitors will not notice the changes.

“We’re reorganizing our staff, and the cuts involved two people who had a big impact on the park,” Porter said. “I don’t believe you make cuts by starting at the bottom. You start at the top, and we did, cutting the next two highest-paid employees after me. We hate to lose these valuable members of our staff, but we’re all going to share in this restructuring, including myself. I’ll be doing the marketing and fundraising that was part of Tonya’s responsibilities.

“We’re taking a proactive approach after looking closely at our finances. As CEO of this facility, our board is telling me to do something about our finances and do it now.”

The park’s annual budget is around $1.8 million, from which the the Park Authority board plans to trim an immediate 10 percent. Kemp said in his release most of the cuts will be in personnel, Chehaw’s largest expense. The most immediate cuts are being made so as not to impact animal care or the daily operations of the park.