RiverQuarium working hard to get feet on dry land
The Flint RiverQuarium is working to make budget cuts, but they say they still need help from the city of Albany.
Elizabeth Ortiz and her boyfriend John were driving from Auburn, Alabama to Orlando Florida when they saw the sign for the Flint RiverQuarium and decided to spend an hour or two in Albany.
"It's really beautiful here, actually! We went by the river first and it was way prettier than we expected," says Ortiz.
It's that kind of response Sanders Lewallen wants to hear. The newest director of the Flint RiverQuarium knows they've been on shaky ground financially. They're asking the city for assistance even though their contract with the city has ended.
"Just basically trying to right our ship and do our best to do the internal job of holding onto expenses," says Lewallen.
Having given $275,000 last year, Commissioner Tommie Postell asked that they find $150,000 in the budget this year. And while it won't solve all Lewallen's problems, it will help with efforts they've already made.
"We removed $341,758.10 actually over the last near 10 months off the budget," says Lewallen.
They've taken a full time staff of 20 down to eight as well as have plans to drill their own well with SPLOST 6 money to supplement their water source. They've even tapped into raising private funds and asking the philanthropic community to chip in to help what Lewallen calls an educational asset.
Over 12,000 school children from over 57 counties come to the RiverQuarium for educational purposes, and that's not counting the thousands that come from right here in Albany.
"Here is a living laboratory, one of the finest aquariums in the world and clearly one of the standouts is the freshwater aquarium. Where else are you going to find a blue hole exhibit-175,000 gallons, 22 feet deep which is just a marvel to behold," adds Lewallen.
It's definitely won over this visitor.
"If I have kids one day I'll probably come down here on my way down to Florida again. Especially if it gets nicer and bigger," says Ortiz.
The city will decide on all budget matters closer to July.