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Fee plan takes root at Rotary Gardens

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Ryan Dostalek
August 21, 2008
— Visitors to Rotary Gardens soon might be reaching into their pockets.

The city council Monday will consider authorizing the gardens to charge admission, City Manager Steve Sheiffer said.


Sheiffer told WCLO Radio the city received a letter from the Rotary Gardens board of directors requesting authority to charge admission.


Rising costs and dropping income are putting the gardens in a tight financial position. The gardens missed budget four of the last six years.


“You can’t go on like that. You can’t survive like that,” said Gary Smith, interim executive director of the gardens. “Rather than trim expense to the point where it hurts us, we need to escalate our ability to raise dollars.”


The proposed admission is $5 for those 13 and older and $3 for ages 6 to 12. Anyone who has a membership to the gardens would have free admission, and the gardens would host several free admission days throughout the season.


Admission would go into effect for the 2009 season and would be collected April 15 through October 31.


The concern about charging admission is that some garden visitors won’t donate as much, if at all, Smith said.


Because the gardens lease the property from the city, the gardens need city manager approval before charging admission.


“I think it’s only appropriate the city council make this decision and not the city manager as he retires,” Sheiffer said of the authorization.


Sheiffer said he would recommend to council members that they allow the gardens to charge admission.


“I’ll make that recommendation (to charge admission), but I think it’s a council decision,” he said.


It would be no different, he said, than admission charged at other city facilities, such as the Tallman House, the ice arena and swimming pools.


Sheiffer wants the council to hold a public hearing on the topic to gauge public reaction before voting.


“This is a great botanical garden. They spend a significant amount of money, and it’s a major community asset,” Sheiffer said.


“They’ve done all the fundraising you can imagine, but now they’ve reached a point in time where they need the additional revenue to support their operation.”



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