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Zoo misses accreditation bid
But, officials encouraged by positive comments
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In other business, the Great Bend City Council:
• Approved abatements for: 2115 Sunset, owned by Heather Battaglear, for accumulation of refuse (AOR); 301 Chestnut, owned by Glenda Short, for motor vehicle nuisance (MVN); the southwest corner of Fifth and Plum, owned by Lawrence/Wilma Keenan, for AOR; 1603 Morton, owned by Sarah Schwartz, for MVN; 2506 Gano, owned by Evelyn Medlock, for AOR; and 2527 Seventh St., owned by Justin Schartz, MVN.
• Heard a update on city office activities from City Administrator Howard Partington.
• Heard and update on economic development efforts from Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters.
• Approved tree trimmer licences for Joni’s Tree Trimming of Plainville and Ark Valley of Larned.
• Approved a cereal malt beverage license for Beer Thirty Drinking Hole at 2801 Main, contingent upon a final inspection.
• Reviewed the city’s snow policy with Public Works Director Don Craig.
• Approved the establishment of two 15-minute parking spaces for loading and unloading in the public parking lot behind Gambino’s Pizza. These spots can be used by anyone or by any business.
• Approved a resolution authorizing the city to award a contract to L&M Contractors of Great Bend to do the Kansas Avenue concrete repair from 16th to 24th streets. The the contract is for $409,194. The city would pay $29,800 with the rest being paid by the state.
•Approved updated cemetery rules and regulations. Among the changes is a new schedule of fees and the requirement for the use of vaults for cremated remains.

Brit Spaugh Zoo Director Scott Gregory  had good news for the Great Bend City Council Monday night and he had bad news.
First, the bad news. The zoo failed in its bid to be nationally accredited through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums when the organization held its annual conference in Phoenix, Ariz., Sept. 8-13.
Next, the good news. “The directors were very impressed,” Gregory said of the AZA’s response to the Great Bend facility’s application. “This put us on the map.”
 It’s rare for a zoo to make the cut on its first try, he said. None the less, “we went into this meeting with high hopes.”
Gregory said one of his goals since taking over the zoo in 2009 has been AZA accreditation, so naturally he is a little let down by the action.
But, “they said ‘don’t give up,’” he said. “They saw the potential Great Bend has.”
The AZA cited a handful of “non-modern zoo practices” that need to be addressed. Among these were the old-style enclosures, lack of a story line or theme, lack of a horticultural plan, inadequate staffing, and lack of strategic and master plans.
But, “the zoo is safe now,” he said. “We’ve done the hard work. The foundation is set.”
Zoo attendance is up (54,000 last year) and revenue is up through donations and items (the sale of duck food generated $5,000) and there are grants.
“Now we have the fun part,” he said. “We get to mold the zoo into what we want.”
Next, Gregory said he and the council need to go over the report and look at strengths and weaknesses, get an out-of-state zoo mentor, look at contracting with a zoo architect and get a master plan in place.
The zoo accreditation organization held its annual conference in Phoenix, Ariz., Sept. 8-13, hosted by the Phoenix Zoo. Great Bend was one of 28 zoos on the list for potential accreditation this year, a list that also included the Topeka Zoo. Topeka received a nod from the AZA.
Great Bend has been working closely with the seven accredited zoos in Kansas. Now, Gregory said, it is time to bring an outside eye in to study things.
 “I am disappointed in this,” council member Randy Myers said. “We’ve been working on this for years and years.”
He wondered why the deficiencies in the report were not called to Gregory’s attention earlier so they could be addressed. He was also concerned that perhaps all the effort and money already spent on the zoo was for naught.
Referring to work done before Gregory arrived, “it was not done right,” council member Allene Owen said, defending the director and his staff. “Now its going in the right direction. They’ve worked so hard.”
There have been earlier mock inspections, but the problems noted in the latest report did not arise during these visits, Gregory said.
City Administrator Howard Partington said one of the key benefits to AZA accreditation is the ability to trade animals with other zoos. But, “they’ve given us the benefit of the doubt” and with all the progress the zoo has made, Brit Spaugh is already being allowed to swap.
“Our main goal was not a piece of paper,” he said.
The zoo was inspected in June by a three-person AZA team (made up of officials from large zoos across the country) for possible accreditation. Over the span of a couple of days, Gregory and staff opened the zoo to the guests.
They looked closely at the facilities and the animal collection, and the finances, professionalism, veterinary care, educational programs, research, guest services and everything else that it takes to make a great zoo.
There’s a long list of criteria for becoming an AZA facility. Fewer than 10 percent of the approximately 2,400 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture are AZA accredited.
Founded in 1924, the AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science and recreation.  
Gregory, City Clerk Wayne Henneke and members of the Zoological Society attended the AZA conference.