Dane County to create trust fund for Henry Vilas Zoo

MADISON (WKOW) — Dane County officials plan to create a trust fund to pay for Henry Vilas Zoo operations and transfer money raised for the zoo, after it dissolves its partnership with a nonprofit.

The contract between the county and the Henry Vilas Zoological Society isover at the end of March. The two parties have been in an ongoing dispute over how to handle operations moving forward.

County Executive Joe Parisi’s office released a statement Sunday saying a trust fund would offer more clarity on how money raised for the zoo will end up being used in the future.

The county also plans to use the trust to support those who’ve worked for the Society. Paychecks will not stop for employees on March 31. They’ll negotiate severance packages with workers.

County officials say under terms of the expiring contract, money raised by the Society for the zoo must be put into a new trust fund. That money can only be spent to support zoo operations and the outstanding financial obligations of the Society.

Meanwhile, the zoo plans to hire a national consultant to help with the transition. That consultant will also work to bring in experts to talk about national best practices.

County officials announced last week they willtransfer concession and visitor services workersto become county employees.

The county is still waiting to hear back from the Society on a number of issues moving forward, according to a statement Sunday, including access to a contact list for zoo volunteers and access to the zoo’s website and social media accounts.

The county executive’s office says:

It’s critical that all zoo volunteers know they’re welcome and their help is integral to the success of the entire zoo family! How volunteers are coordinated at Henry Vilas Zoo was an issue identified by the AZA. AZA accreditation standards call for volunteer coordination to be done by the zoo staff.

The county says they’ll continue a dialogue with the Society moving forward.

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