Bloomington will add more parking and a concessions stand at Miller Park Zoo.
Aldermen unanimously approved a $1 million contract with Stark Excavating for the work Monday night. The council first approved the concept as part of the zoo's 2012 master plan, then signed off on preliminary plans in December.
Bloomington Director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Jay Tetzloff hopes the project will encourage guests to spend more time at the zoo and Miller Park.
“Our top two concerns we hear from the guests is we don’t have enough parking, and we don’t have any food,” he said. “So the idea is people now can stay in Miller Park the entire day with all the things that are going on there.”
The parking lot will expand by about 50 spaces.
The project will also replace a leaky roof on the main zoo building, and eliminate a secondary driveway Tetzloff said is a safety concern. The drive runs between the parking lot and the zoo entrance.
“Unless you walked, you cross the street, which, when many of our guests are about knee-high, that’s never a good piece,” Tetzloff said.
The contract calls for a steel roof to replace the zoo building’s 28-year-old shingle roof. Tetzloff said the material has an extended life and could support a solar array in the future.
Tetzloff said he expects the concessions stand will generate an $85,000 annual profit. That would allow the city to pay off the $1.2 million project in 13 years, he said.
Additional funding for the project includes a $100,000 grant from the state, $100,000 in city park dedication funds, $400,000 in future park dedication funds and a $600,000 loan.
Aldermen Jamie Mathy and David Sage said they weren’t so sure the project would turn a profit.
Mathy said the city has a bad habit of overlooking maintenance costs associated with capital improvement projects.
“In my experience, things like your refrigeration, your fryers and stuff, those aren’t going to last 13 years,” Mathy said. “So we need to be making and setting aside a little bit of money every year to put into that budget to replace that equipment.”
Sage said he’d like to see projections for “the total cost of ownership” for the project.
Tetzloff said the zoo’s master plan focuses on cost recovery, allowing the zoo to pay for itself.
In other business, the council approved a special use permit for a vacant building on the city’s west side, where potential buyers plan to open a job training site for women.
The council also approved changes to the city code to reflect a merger of the city’s water and public works departments.
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