LV Zoo in great shape
Lehigh Valley Zoo President and CEO Melissa Borland sounded excited and happy as she reported a series of milestones to the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners June 26; revenue up from $1 million in 2014 to $4.1 million in 2018; expected recertification by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which indicates that the Lehigh Valley Zoo is rated among the top 10 percent of zoos in the country; plus a new initiative to reduce consumption of one-use plastics. She also reported the zoo had 230,000 visitors in 2018.
But the mood changed quickly when Commissioner Marc Grammes started grilling Borland as to why she had not submitted financial information to the board either in 2018 or by the April 30 deadline this year.
Grammes expressed concern that the Commissioners weren’t being kept adequately informed of the Zoo’s operations and finances. “I have not heard anything about 2018, said Grammes. “I didn’t see anybody from the Zoo last year.
Borland, seemingly surprised at the Grammes’ line of questioning, responded, “Time after time I requested [to come before the board], but I was bumped—I was placed on the agenda and I was, in fact, bumped.”
“I submitted my financials to the county and to the liaison on the board.” She was referring to Director of General Services Richard Molchany and President Marty Nothstein, who is on the board of directors of the Lehigh Valley Zoological Society, which leases and runs the Lehigh Valley Zoo. The zoo property and animals are owned by the county and leased to the Zoological Society for $1 per year.
Molchany explained to Grammes that he took responsibility for the perceived lack of reporting, confirming Borlund had made her reports to him. He offered to share the reports directly with the board of if it desired.
A review of the lease indicates it requires the Zoological Society to “Prepare and submit an annual report, which consists of a profit and loss statement, budget and capital plan for the current year no later than April 30 of each year describing the Lessee’s activities and accomplishments in the use and development of the Facility during the preceding year.”
The lease doesn’t specify that the report be made to the board of commissioners. As Molchany signed the lease as director of general services, it appears that a report submitted to him satisfies the lease’s reporting requirements.
In regular business, commissioners approved 8–0 (Commissioner Amy Zanelli was absent from the meeting) of the amendment to the Lehigh County Authority’s (LCA) articles of incorporation that extends LCA’s existence for another 43 years. The LCA is a municipal authority that supplies water and sewer systems to Allentown and 16 other municipalities.
LCA Director Liesel Gross andher staff responded with cheers and applause. This final vote of approval of the amendment was the result of a months-long effort.
Commissioners also gave first reading approval of the auditor’s report on Lehigh County’s 2018 audited financial statements.
Also getting a first reading approval was a resolution to hire Lehigh Valley Physician Group to provide a Medical Director for the Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation center.
Cedarbrook also was the topic of other resolutions getting a first reading approval from commissioners: a contract to Advantage Care Rehabilitation, LLC will provide occupational, physical and speech therapy for residents of Cedarbrook; a contract with Audiology Services LLC will provide on-site audiology services to Cedarbrook; another resolution approved consultation services to Cedarbrook by Affinity Health Services, Inc.
In other business, the Commissioners made the following appointments: the Rev. Gus Al-Khal to the Aging and Adult Services Advisory Board; Amir Famili to the Lehigh County Authority; Janet Verga to the Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities Board; Michelle Julian as the Assistant Administrator of Cedarbrook in Fountain Hill; Teresa Samuels as Director of Nursing for Cedarbrook; and David Cook as Supervisory Accountant for Cedarbrook.