East Penn Press

Friday, July 19, 2019

LEHIGH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Thursday, July 11, 2019 by DOUGLAS GRAVES Special to The Press in Local News

Zoo president and CEO reports increased revenue

Editor’s Note: This is an edited version with corrections to the article printed in the July 10 edition of The Press.

President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Zoo Melissa Borland sounded excited and happy as she reported a series of good news milestones to the Lehigh County Commissioners at the June 26 meeting.

She reported revenue increased from $1 million in 2014 to $4.1 million in 2018.

Recertification by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is expected. This indicates the zoo would be rated among the top 10 percent of zoos in the country.

Plus, the zoo has begun a new initiative to reduce consumption of one-use plastics. There were 230,000 visitors in 2018.

The mood changed quickly when Commissioner Marc Grammes asked Borland why she had not submitted financial information to commissioners either in 2018 nor by April 30 of this year.

Grammes expressed concern the board was not being kept adequately informed of the zoo’s operations and finances.

He told Borland she was supposed to present plans no later than April 30.

“I have not heard anything about 2018,” Grammes said. “I didn’t see anybody from the zoo last year.

“I have to express my dismay we did not see you last year. It is now the end of June of this year and we have not seen you.”

Borland was seemingly surprised at Grammes’ line of questioning.

“Time after time I requested to come before the board but I was bumped,” Borland said. “I was placed on the agenda and, I was, in fact, bumped.

“I submitted my financials to the county and to the liaison on the board.”

She was referring to Director of General Services Richard Molchany and to Commissioner President Marty Nothstein, who is on the board of directors of the Lehigh Valley Zoological Society.

The animals are owned by AZA and the Lehigh Valley Zoological Society. However, the elk and the bison in the preserve are owned by the county, in which the county contracts with the zoo to care for the elk and the bison. The Lehigh Valley Zoological Society runs independent to the county outside of the lease of the land and the requirements to satisfy those lease requirements, which is leased for a payment of $1 a year.

Molchany told Grammes he took responsibility for the perceived lack of reporting.

He said Borland had made her reports to him and he offered to share the reports directly with commissioners if that is desired.

The lease does not specify the report be made to commissioners.

As Molchany signed the lease as director of general services, it appeared a report submitted to him satisfied the lease’s reporting requirements.

In regular business, commissioners gave final approval by an 8-0 vote (Commissioner Amy Zanelli was absent from the meeting) to the amendment to the Lehigh County Authority’s articles of incorporation extending its existence for another 43 years.

The LCA supplies water and sewer systems to Allentown and 16 other municipalities.

LCA Director Liesel Gross and her staff who attended the meeting responded with cheers and applause.

This final vote of approval was the result of a monthslong effort.

Commissioners also gave first reading of the auditor’s report on Lehigh County’s 2018 audited financial statements.

Also receiving a first reading approval was a resolution to hire Lehigh Valley Physician Group to provide a medical director for the Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation Center.

Cedarbrook also was the topic of other resolutions having a first reading approval from commissioners, including: a contract with Advantage Care Rehabilitation, LLC to provide occupational, physical and speech therapy for Cedarbrook residents; a contract with Audiology Services LLC to provide onsite audiology services and a third to provide consultation services by Affinity Health Services Inc.

In other business, commissioners made the following appointments: the Rev. Gus Al-Khal to the Aging and Adult Services Advisory Board; Amir Famili to the Lehigh County Authority; Janet Verga to the Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities Board; Michelle Julian as assistant administrator of Cedarbrook, Fountain Hill; Teresa Samuels as director of nursing for Cedarbrook and David Cook as supervisory accountant for Cedarbrook.