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Zoo’s learning center projects costs increase

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Converting the former aviary at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park into an education center cleared a major hurdle Monday night, even though the City Council learned it will cost about $44,000 more than estimated.

During a presentation on Monday night, City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk told council members that the total cost for the project most likely will go up from $487,000 to $531,612.

Despite that news, the council instructed the city’s engineering office to proceed with going out to bid, while Mr. Hauk suggested a series of options to reduce costs.

The alternative bids include having city work crews complete some of the demolition work, extend electric service to the A-frame structure and install sidewalks and a ramp.

The council also could eliminate solar panels and interior cabinets and display exhibits that zoo officials had requested, he said.

“I’m satisfied with the job you’re doing and we should go out to bid,” Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham told the engineer.

Now that Mr. Hauk has an OK from the council, the project will go out to bid in several weeks.

He said he expects construction will begin in August, so it will not interfere with the zoo’s busy visitors season.

The zoo plans to use the learning center — to be named after the late Mayor Karl R. Burns — with enough space for about 80 people for education and exhibit space, and a variety of events, including birthday parties and other gatherings.

In November, the City Council said it liked revised plans that architects said they believe would save the city more than $90,000.

Those plans include two restrooms, storage space for animals, a vestibule and possibly a small catering area.

The exterior of the A-frame building will feature glass, a stone veneer and some other type of translucent material.

Back then, the projected cost was lowered to about $487,000 after the council told the architects to reduce the original cost of $590,000, yet retain the building’s shape.

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