Two years ago city officials considered closing the Pioneer Park Aviary as a way to trim the city budget.
But the idea was dismissed by the City Council Finance Committee as soon as it was brought up. The Aviary -- like Pioneer Park -- is generally considered one of the jewels of the city.
Yes, money was tight in 2008 but city officials felt it would be better to fund the Aviary ($50,000 a year) and then look into finding a citizens' group to partner with to raise funds specifically for the Aviary.
Today the Aviary is once again on the chopping block and the financial situation for city government is far worse. The city is looking at a revenue shortfall of $1.3 million, which means there simply isn't enough cash coming in to fund all the city's wants and even some of its needs. Serious, painful cuts are going to be made.
But it's shortsighted to do away with the Aviary. Eliminating the Aviary is a permanent solution to the temporary budget problem. If the Aviary is shut down, it's never coming back. It would be nearly impossible -- and very expensive -- to rebuild an aviary to the current level.
If the Aviary is closed the birds would have to be sent elsewhere.
And what would be done with the Aviary area? Would it be left to deteriorate into a mess? Or would the city dismantle the bird sanctuary and revamp it for another use?
Leaving to it deteriorate would be unacceptable and revamping it would eliminate any savings. Neither alternative is good.
The most reasonable approach is the one taken two years ago. Fund the Aviary and continue looking for a partner.
Perhaps this time a partner organization can be found as it's clear the situation is growing more and more troubling.
At some point, particularly if the economy doesn't begin to show steady improvement, city officials might have no choice but to close the Aviary. This is especially true if citizens don't rally to the cause. Silence would be interpretted as acceptance.
This budget cycle will likely see serious reductions to the library budget, the parks budget and maybe even the fire and police budgets. Everything will be -- and should be -- looked at and discussed.
Eliminating the Aviary is not a prudent step. In time, tax collections will pick up and the city will once again have steady, reliable revenue to operate.
Nevertheless, it would be best if a club or organization could take over funding of the Aviary to ensure long-term stability.