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ONLY ON 3: State considering privatizing aquariums, zoo

FORT FISHER, NC (WWAY) — The state of North Carolina owns a zoo and three aquariums, including the one at Fort Fisher. That could change based on a recommendation coming next week.

The state will make a recommendation on whether to privatize the aquariums and zoo. So we wanted to know what would that mean for the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher?

“The aquariums have been here for 35 years, and we’re not going anywhere,” Fort Fisher Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan said.

Sloan says the state Program Evaluation Division’s decision could mean change for the aquarium, but none she thinks visitors would notice. NC Zoo director David Jones says whatever happens, don’t call it privatization.

“Nobody is going to give you anything for a business that loses $10 million a year,” Jones said. “No one is going to privatize if the business is not able to generate an income.”

Jones says the way he sees it, the change would be a public-private partnership. The state would still own the property, but a non-profit would be responsible for the upkeep.

“They would be responsible for the governance and the running of the operation and, of course, also raising additional private funding,” Jones said.

Sloan says the non-profit North Carolina Aquarium Society already helps finance a lot of the programs at the aquarium. She says if the group partnered with the state, it would be like a “family-owned” business.

“All of our members belong to the Aquarium Society,” Sloan said. “If they were to take over governance of our organization, that would mean our members are operating the aquariums.”

A recommendation is expected Tuesday. Once a recommendation is made, the state legislature would have to discuss it, possibly during its short session in May.

More: continued here

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