MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A Memphis City Council member says he's tired of hearing from families who can't visit one of the Bluff City's top attractions because of the price of admission.
"I think everybody deserves a chance to come to the zoo and it should be more accessible," said Councilman Lee Harris.
Harris said he recently started reviewing the City's contract with the Zoo and found it was last updated in the mid-1990s.
"I think the Memphis Zoo can do a lot more in respect to accessibility and to rein in prices, it is a city owned facility after all," he said.
The zoo charges $15 for an adult admission. It is a private/public partnership, and doesn't get all of its funding from the city.
"We are non-profit, we make enough to pay the bills," said Chuck Brady, President of the Memphis Zoo.
According to Harris, the current contract states the Memphis Parks Commission is responsible for approving all price increases. That Commission was dissolved in 2000. Currently, Parks Director Janet Hooks approves price hikes, something that seemed to surprise several city council members.
"The Director of Parks approves the price, any price increase, I was not aware of that," said Councilman Myron Lowery.
"We should not have to discover these things," said Councilwoman Wanda Halbert. "It is an embarrassment, an embarrassment to have to stumble on these kinds of issues."
Brady says it costs money to maintain the Memphis Zoo's 74-acres and nearly 400 full and part-time employees.
According to Brady, more than 25 percent of those who visit the zoo get in free or at reduced prices. The zoo says more than 1.09 million people visited the zoo last year, including 144,000 who got in free. The zoo estimates an additional 93,000 children came as part of school field trips, and were charged reduced admission prices.
"We go out of our way to identify needy individuals, children, families, school groups and we target them for admission to our facility," Brady said.
Harris says he plans to spend the next couple weeks researching the City's contract with the zoo.