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Sedgwick County Approves $5.3 Million For Elephant 'Barn'

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After a discussion that lasted nearly an hour, the Sedgwick County Commission agreed to help fund a new, roughly $10 million elephant "barn" at Sedgwick County Zoo--their contribution being $5.3 million.

An expansion is needed after new standards from The Association of Zoos and Aquariums stated that facilities must have at least three elephants, or none at all. The Sedgwick County Zoo currently has room for only two.

The five-member board voted 3-2 in favor of the expense. Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau did not support it, saying additional private donations should be sought over the next six months.

Ranzau went further, saying the county's priorities aren't right. He says funding this project after allowing the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, a youth correctional facility, to close in July, angered him and his constituents. 

"I don't understand the idea that you can put elephants over human beings," Ranzau said.

Commissioner Tim Norton took issue with that statement.

"Some of us are working on alternative solutions for the boys that were at the ranch and I'll continue to do that," Norton said. "But, anyone who thinks I don't understand those who need help in our community, doesn't know Tim Norton."

Ranzau made a motion that would allow funding for the elephant housing at Sedgwick County Zoo, but also reopen the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch. That motion did not pass. 

The approved $5.3 million will be taken out of county reserves, and will be added to over $4 million dollars in private donations.

Follow Sean Sandefur on Twitter, @SeanSandefur