Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Zoo train
donations depleted

The cost of rides has doubled
as a result, the operator says

City-solicited donations to subsidize rides on the Honolulu Zoo train have run out, according to the private company that operates the ride.

The $29,000 ran out about a month ago, and the cost of rides rose to $2 from $1 for all riders including children, Xtreme Fun Rentals Inc. owner Delbert Kim said in an e-mail to the Star-Bulletin.

"Besides the sponsorship money, there was no city budget for the train operation. The train is now running solely on income from the ridership," Kim wrote.

City administration officials have said that nine businesses donated a total of $29,000 to make the popular ride more affordable for children. The pint-sized train carries children and adult visitors around the zoo.

The train's annual operating cost was estimated between $25,000 and $30,000.

The raise in fares occurred just before the zoo budget was presented to the City Council's budget committee last week.

City Councilman Charles Djou said city officials did not tell council members the cost for the train had risen to $2.

"There was no reason for them not to share that with the Council when we asked questions about it," Djou said. "There was no reason for them not to explain why it bumped up to $2 and why they had to represent to the Council that it was still only $1 with monies that were necessary to keep it at $1. It raises eyebrows."

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said administration officials were not aware of the change in the fares at the time they presented the budget to the Council. "We weren't keeping things from the Council."

Djou has asked the city Ethics Commission for an opinion on whether it is ethical for a city official to solicit money from a private corporation for the benefit of another corporation.


E-mail to City Desk


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