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Zoo expansion: Critics and City Manager still at odds

Critics don't like Manager’s recommended plan
Posted at 7:34 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 22:36:20-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Critics fighting a plan to expand the Reid Park Zoo are fighting the city manager’s recommendation for an alternate plan too.

Critics say when voters approved a sales tax hike to pay for zoo expansion, the city did not make it clear the zoo would take one of the ponds and the hill and trees near it.

The city contends it gave plenty of notice. Even so, the Mayor and Council paused construction to work out other options.

After results of a public survey City manager Mike Ortega recommends sparing the pond but expanding onto another piece of the park. That’s called Plan D. You can read the City Manager’s report and recommendation at this link.

The group Save the Heart of Reid Park says Plan D still takes precious green space. They want a revised Plan G. It would expand the zoo into a parking lot, a storage area, and land occupied by a therapeutic recreation center.

The City Manager says Plan D would cost $3.6 million while plan G would cost between $15 and 25 million.

Critics say the city manager left costs out of the estimate for Plan D and inflated costs for Plan G to knock G out of contention. They contend revisions can get both plans to cost about 10 million.

Margo Garcia of Save the Heart of Reid Park says: “One of the biggest costs they put into G was a parking garage. And if you follow the costs of garages, it's about $30,000 a parking space for a built garage, 10,000 for on-surface parking. And so if you remove that parking garage. That would take down about 300 to $400,000 off of G at a beginning.”

Ward Six Councilmember Steve Kozachik wants to stick to the original construction contract (Plan B) or a plan he proposed (Plan C) that keeps the original work and creates a new pond. He says if the city cancels the existing construction contract the city will have trouble getting other work done for years to come.

He says, “Why would anybody bid on a bid on a project. If the city takes the position that, ‘Hey we reserve the right to change our mind three years from now’. Why would you be doing our jobs? I've had contractors tell me that they're not going to bid on city jobs anymore if we change this.”

City council is set to decide what to do in a study session May 5.