As a volunteer member of the Henry Vilas Zoological Society board of directors for 25 years (from 1985 until 2010) and as a past president and as acting interim executive director of the society, I take issue with some of the statements in Saturday's State Journal article "Zoo keeps AZA status."
In my tenure with the society, our primary objective was to raise money for capital projects to improve the zoo. We were open and adamant about not having our donated funds used for day-to-day operations. Our volunteers made it very clear that the majority of donated money went for brick-and-mortar projects, not for payroll of zoo staff. It is one thing to ask for financial help to build a new primate center. It is quite another to ask the community to pay for staff the accreditation body tells us we need.
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If Dane County cannot or will not foot the bill for operations, why should the generous donations of our community be expected to make up the shortfall?
May I add the community was very generous to the society. Every activity we undertook to improve the zoo was done at no cost to the county. We were very good at our mission and are proud of our work. If the county can’t afford to pay the staff what's necessary and required to operate our zoo, then it should close it and not insist that donated capital project funds be redirected to operations.
Fritz Ragatz, Middleton