The Rock Island County Board needs to make changes to the way the Niabi Zoo is operated or it will deteriorate, according to the Niabi Zoological Society's former president Scott Lohman.
Niabi Zoo is owned by Rock Island County, specifically, the zoo is part of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, which is operated by the Forest Preserve Commission. In 2014 the Niabi Zoological Society, a non-profit group who raises money for the zoo, hired a consultant group to find out how the zoo could generate more donations.
The study was conducted by the McCarthy-Blansett Group.
The study suggests big donors "are reluctant to support the zoo" while the county operates it.
"We will be able to raise funds a lot easier without government involvement, said John Ferrell, president of the Niabi Zoological Society.
Ferrell added the zoo "will be able to run more efficiently" if it become a public-private partnership, which 75 percent of AZA (Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) are public-private owned, according to the study.
Rock Island County Board Republican Drue Mielke indicated turning the zoo into a public-private partnership is "certainly a viable option," but said he is reserving his judgement until he hears all sides of the argument.
"We want to make sure that it's (the Niabi Zoo) being handled, as far as donations, in the right way," Mielke added.
On Friday, September 25, 2015, Niabi Zoo's director Marc Heinzman announced he would be stepping down as the zoo's director. He's taking a job in Washington state, but said he trusts the county and zoological society will lead the zoo in the right direction.
On Wednesday, September 30, 2015, at 6:30 p.m. at the Coal Valley Municipal Center Conference Room, the Rock Island County Board Minority Caucus will meet with the zoological society's former president, Scott Lohman, where they will discuss the recent reports. On Wednesday, October 7, 2015, there will be a special forest preserve committee where the report will be discussed at 5:30 p.m. at the Rock Island County Building.