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Published: Friday, 7/1/2005

Task force's report to be issued July 8

The citizens' task force investigating the Toledo Zoo for the last three months met yesterday for the last time to approve a report with recommendations to improve conditions at the zoo.

The 45-page report will be made public next Friday when the task force presents it to the Lucas County commissioners.

Marty Skeldon, task force co-chairman, said the task force wanted to have the report ready after the holiday weekend, but decided it couldn't be completed in time with the amount of changes discussed. The meeting was set for next Friday because it was the soonest all three county commissioners were available.

Since March 24, the 13-member task force has met weekly to discuss animal care, governance, personnel, and finance matters at the zoo.

Task force members, who divided into subcommittees that concentrated on each aspect, have researched hundreds of documents and interviewed dozens of zoo staff members over the last 100 days to uncover communication and teamwork problems with zoo management, employees, and volunteers.

Concerns about the zoo began with the February firing of head veterinarian Tim Reichard and escalated with the retirement of William Dennler, its executive director, in May.

Last week, zoo officials announced a plan to hire a director of administration who will oversee employee relations, public relations, and other departments. It will be a one-year contract position and is expected to be filled by July 15.

Mr. Skeldon said there was a lot of discussion yesterday to finalize the document that will guide the zoo into the future.

"It's really going to help the zoo," Mr. Skeldon said. "It's a very good document for the zoo to go into the future with. Every single board member wants to see this zoo succeed, and it will."

Task force members added a conclusion to the report that recommends county commissioners establish some form of follow-up to make sure the report is not "put on a shelf somewhere," Mr. Skeldon said.

He said the report includes both immediate and long-term suggestions to regenerate public support for the zoo.

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