Commission approves budget transfer for giraffe

Kevin Wilson

Make room, Jael. You’re about to have some company.

The Clovis City Commission approved a $15,500 budget transfer Thursday, allowing Hillcrest Park Zoo staff to pay for the acquisition and delivery of a male giraffe currently owned by The Disney Company.

Jael, the zoo’s female giraffe, is in her window for gestation and zoo officials are hopeful the pair can create three to four offspring.

City Manager Joe Thomas spoke in the absence of Parks and Recreation Director Bill Bizzell, who was at an out-of-town conference. Thomas said the zoo staff has searched for nearly a year to find Jael a breeding partner.

“Obviously,” Thomas said, “they’re not in everyone’s backyard.”

The search led to Orlando, where Disney is looking to convert its giraffe population to purebred status. That means its hybrid breeds, including the one marked for Clovis, are up for sale.

The total cost of the giraffe is $30,500, Thomas said — $25,000 for the animal and $5,500 for transportation. The cost is defrayed by a $15,000 donation from the Citizen’s Bank of Clovis.

Thomas said the $5,500 transportation cost might seem high, but he felt it was worth paying a 22 percent increase for guaranteed safe delivery of the animal as opposed to the expense and risk of having city staff travel to Orlando and bring back the giraffe with city equipment — a suggestion that elicited mild laughter from citizens attending the meeting.

Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said Citizens Bank deserved thanks for its donation, which was put forth a year ago to help zoo staff put some weight behind its search efforts.

In other action at the meeting:

• Lisa Dunagan of Clovis MainStreet said the organization was gearing up for its annual gala, set for 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Underground Embassy with a theme of “Taste This,” and was planning to move a locomotive from Hillcrest Park to the Clovis Model Train Museum.

• Kathy Wright of New Mexico American Water said water use from the summer of 2010 was generally lower than the summers of 2009 and 2008. Wright said she felt their public campaign for water conservation was part of the effort, but citizens were also being fiscally responsible and making cutbacks on water.

The company, the city’s water provider, supplied 7.2 million gallons per day on average in August and 6.1 million gallons per day in July.

• The commission proclaimed Saturday as Trek for Trash Day and presented commercial and residential yard of the month awards for August.

• The commission approved the introduction of an ordinance establishing a Planned Unit Development as an addition to the city’s planning and zoning code. The ordinance will be discussed at a future commission meeting.

• Surface rights were released for a 10-acre tract of land currently owned by Clovis Biodiesel, allowing for the transfer of property. City Attorney David Richards said the waiving of mineral and oil access rights were necessary for the company to transfer the plant it built but will no longer use. Richards said if the city wants to drill for mining or oil, it still has 230 acres on the lot to do so.