4 On Your Side investigates uncompleted BioPark projects

Posted at: 11/01/2013 9:29 AM
Updated at: 11/01/2013 9:34 AM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Every two years Albuquerque voters are met with a long list of general obligation bonds on their ballot. When voters approve the authorization of these bonds, the city essentially borrows money from Wall Street for capital improvement projects across the city, including a number of projects at the ABQ BioPark. 

The 4 On Your Side investigative team combed through ten years' worth of approved projects at the ABQ BioPark and discovered not all projects that the City of Albuquerque promised voters are in construction. 

The three largest projects that city leaders have started collecting money for are an expansion of the aquarium, an exhibit featuring penguins at the zoo and an insectarium where children and adults will be able to learn about bugs from around the world. Millions of dollars have been authorized to start the projects, but not enough money is in place to finish them. 

During our investigation, 4 On Your Side learned there are two major factors contributing to the lack of construction at the BioPark. First, during the last ten years the economy tanked and the amount of funding the City of Albuquerque could borrow was drastically reduced. That meant many plans for expensive and extensive projects across the city were halted.  

The second factor was a change in leadership.  In 2009, Richard Berry was elected as mayor and his vision for the city focused on rehabilitating older buildings before creating news ones.  Berry's vision is reflected in the most recent general obligation bond program where all capital dollars are focused on maintenance and upkeep of the BioPark, with no new construction projects. 

But a promise is still a promise.  Eventually, the City will have to deliver a penguin exhibit, insectarium, and a second phase of the aquarium.  Through the years, city leaders promised these attractions and the city now has a responsibility to find funding and get it built for all to enjoy. 

There is some progress.  The ABQ BioPark Society, a non-profit organization that raises money for the zoo, is fundraising for the penguin exhibit.  The city may ask state lawmakers for state funding to help complete the aquarium expansion, and BioPark officials say the insectarium should open in 2014.