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July 31, 2013

Groups make final plea for funding at Sedgwick County budget hearing

Supporters of the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place and the Mediation Center of Wichita made their final plea for additional funding Wednesday to county commissioners.

Supporters of the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place and the Mediation Center of Wichita made their final plea for additional funding Wednesday to county commissioners.

Wednesday was the final public hearing on the proposed nearly $414 million county budget for next year. Commissioners will vote Aug. 7 on a spending plan for next year.

Scott Ochs, president of the Sedgwick County Zoological Society, said the zoo would use its proposed increase of $373,226 for maintenance.

Tom Gangel, chairman of the board of directors at Exploration Place, told commissioners that the museum operates efficiently. He noted that the museum had 80 staff members when it opened 13 years ago and now has 35.

Dennis McHugh with the Mediation Center of Wichita asked for additional funding, saying the center helps people avoid costly court.

Commissioners also talked about the future of the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, considered for closing last year. County management says there is a significant funding gap between what the state pays the county to operate the ranch and how much it costs to operate it.

Commissioner Dave Unruh said Wednesday that the county should not burden county taxpayers to pay for a state program. He said closing the ranch next year may be the county’s only alternative.

“We have other competing priorities we have to think about,” he said.

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