Gulf Shores provides assistance to zoo

By Crystal Cole
Posted 2/8/18

The Gulf Shores City Council approved a measure which would help the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo secure funding to move to a larger facility.

At the December 21, 2017 special called meeting the …

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Gulf Shores provides assistance to zoo


The Gulf Shores City Council approved a measure which would help the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo secure funding to move to a larger facility.

At the December 21, 2017 special called meeting the council conducted the first public hearing on considering the appropriation of a one-time grant of $1,000,000 to the Zoo Foundation. The grant would help secure $26,260,000 in tax-exempt financing for the purpose of relocating the Alabama Gulf Shores Zoo from its present location and expanding and constructing a new zoo facility on a 25-acre property off of County Road 6 East in Gulf Shores. The $1,000,000 is proposed to be transferred at the conclusion of their construction to be set aside and utilized as part of its operating reserves when the zoo construction is completed in 2020. This is a condition of the approval of the bond issuance scheduled in February 2018.

City administrator Steve Griffin said since the last meeting, the measure had been slightly modified to help the timing to close on the loan.

“There were some specifics that we wanted to articulate in the agreement,” Griffin said. “They are as follows: that the zoo be within the City of Gulf Shores, that construction be started within six months and completed within 24 months, that finished construction would be evident by the City’s issuance of a certificate of occupancy, that the zoo will provide certificate that it will not ask the City for any more money until at least the bonds are paid for, the other parties will recognize that the city has no other liabilities or obligations for money and finally that once the resolution is adopted the City will be required to make the transfer within the 2020 fiscal year.”

The existing Gulf Shores Zoo began its operation in 1989. It is located on seven upland acres surrounded by wetland areas and vulnerable to storm surge. In 2006, a 25-acre site in North Gulf Shores off of County Road 8 East was donated to the Zoo Foundation for the purpose of a new zoo location. The benefits of the new zoo location as described by the foundation include:

- Relocating the animals away from tropical storm danger and providing enhanced animal habitats. 
- Expansion opportunities that will enable the Zoo to be a more regional attraction. I would consider the Zoo to be one of the many attractions in Gulf Shores that serves to promote the Gulf Shores area as a family orientated destination.
The $26,260,000 bond issue’s purpose is threefold including: 
- Refinancing existing zoo debt 
- Purchasing an adjacent 69 acre property for future expansion opportunities 
- Financing construction of the new expanded zoo estimated to cost $16.5 million 
The construction of the Zoo will be managed by Terry P Christmas owner of TPC and Associates. The Zoo’s two main construction contractors include: 
- Stuart Construction for vertical construction of buildings and the restaurant 
- Blade Construction for site work and hardscape 

Also approved at the meeting was a request for council approval to apply for a grant through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG).

Beginning with the 2019 budget, the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) started the critical replacement process for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units. There are 65 units that need replacing. The total projected cost of $450,000 is to be spread out over three years reducing budget impact to $150,000 per year.

This year, the AFG grant has placed a high priority on SCBA acquisitions and replacement. Due to the size of its population, Gulf Shores would fund 5 percent, and FEMA would fund the remaining 95 percent. The city’s out-of-pocket portion if awarded is $21,428.57.

The City also awarded the bid for a 12-passenger handicap accessible van to Alliance Bus Group in an amount not to exceed $49,144. A similar bid, but for a 15-passenger van not handicap accessible, was awarded to Transportation South in an amount not to exceed $39,992.

A big infrastructure improvement for the city was also approved with ALDOT reimbursing 100 percent of the costs.

The ALDOT funding agreement would be for up to $300,000 for construction and CE&I for widening Hwy 59 to lengthen the existing Waterville left-turn lane from 35 feet to 225 feet. Public Works Director Mark Acreman said the anticipated construction time would be 45 days, with the goal being to implement work at night to minimize traffic impacts. If the work is unable to be finished by May 1, then work would not be done until after Labor Day. The City would potentially accept a bid from Volkert Associates to provide permitting, bidding preparation and CE&I as required by ALDOT.