Merced council to discuss zoo fees, G Street project artwork

The Merced City Council will consider what art work to put on the walls of the G Street underpass and what the entrance fees should be at the Applegate Park Zoo at its Tuesday night meeting.

The council usually meets on the first Monday of the month, but because of the July 4 holiday it is meeting on Tuesday.

The council will consider the artistic concepts for panels to line the pedestrian and vehicle right-of-ways of the G Street underpass. Despite unseasonal rains, the underpass crossing the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad tracks is on time and on budget.

Eighteen artists submitted concepts and they were reviewed by a group from the local art community, the City’s Design Review Committee and the public. The artists have works on display in cities from Merced to San Francisco and New York, and some have been commissioned by Stanford and Starbucks.

The council will select the artists for the panels, who will them refine their concepts. There is $200,000 budgeted for the art work, money that cannot be used to fund police officers or firefighters or pay for other staffing.

The council also will consider three rate structures for Applegate Park Zoo entrance fees to increase the amount of income generated at the gate. The city pays two-thirds of the zoo’s $202,208 operating budget. The council wanted the Zoological Society to increase its contribution by raising fees.

The Zoo Society proposal would recover 40 percent of the operating cost with the highest fee for ages 16 to 61 at $2.50. The proposal from the Recreation and Parks Commission would recover 47 percent of the costs, with the highest fee being $3 for ages 11 and up. A proposal to recover 100 percent of operating costs would see the highest fee for ages 11 to 59 at $6.25.

The regular City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St.

The council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org and is available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request to Speak cards are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the city's website. Cards must be turned in to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the council.