Topeka Zoo Buildings Begin to Reopen and Debut of Baby Black and White Ruffed Lemur

In coordination with the Shawnee County Reopening Plan, beginning Monday, June 8, the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center will begin reopening some of its buildings. The first buildings to be reopened will include Camp Cowabunga, the Lianas Forest and the Animals and Man building. By the end of next week, the Zoo also plans to reopen the Saving Sharks and Lorikeet Aviary experiences.  During phase three of the reopening plan, building and experience opportunities will be limited to less than 45 people at a time and the zoo will maintain a maximum occupancy of 900 people at any given time.

Monday will also be the debut of the Zoo’s newest resident, a baby black and white ruffed lemur that was born in the early morning hours on Friday May 28 to parents Cleo and Sorabe. This birth marks the first successful breeding of black and white ruffed lemurs at the Topeka Zoo. Black and white ruffed lemurs are an endangered species endemic to the Island of Madagascar. The lemur infant can be viewed daily during normal operating hours at the Zoo’s Animals and Man building beginning June 8 when she is out of the nest box.

City of Topeka Making Staffing Changes due to Budget Shortfall

The City of Topeka is making staffing changes due to budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Personnel have been notified of their position elimination and currently remain employed by the city. These staff members are currently working to transition their duties to other departments and staff.

The specific positions eliminated include the Deputy City Manager, Director of Neighborhood Relations and Emergency Manager. The City of Topeka will continue to work closely with Shawnee County Emergency Management for city emergency response. The Neighborhood Relations Department will be absorbed into another department, which will be decided at a later date.

These individuals are not being dismissed due to any conduct or performance issues.  However, the effect the pandemic is anticipated to have on the city budget is likely to be severe.  This requires that steps be taken to responsibly navigate through this unprecedented event, including the elimination of positions.

“Eliminating these positions was a difficult decision. I want to thank Doug, Sasha and Jim for the hard work and years of service that they gave to the City of Topeka,” said City Manager Brent Trout. “Their contributions helped to make the city a better community to live and work in.”

The elimination of these three positions, including salaries and benefits, will save the city approximately $446,000 in 2021.

City of Topeka Buildings to Open to the Public on May 18th

The City of Topeka will reopen its buildings to the public on May 18th. Social distancing and other restrictive measures will be enforced in all city buildings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Plexiglas partitions have been installed in the City Express Payment Center at the Holliday Building and at the clerk’s office in the Municipal Court to help lessen person to person contact. Anyone who needs to meet with staff in person can meet in the first floor conference room of City Hall or the Holliday building. Everyone who does business in city buildings is strongly encouraged to wear a mask at all times while in the building.

The Municipal Court will open to the public on May 18th. Municipal Court hours of operation will be 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. In order to comply with guidelines from the State of Kansas, Shawnee County Health Authority, and the Kansas Supreme Court, restrictions are being put into place for visitors to the courthouse and probation. Social distancing and other restrictive measures will be enforced for the safety of the staff and the public. All persons entering the courthouse or probation offices are strongly encouraged to wear masks at all times while in the building.

  • Defendants are encouraged to check the status of their case on public access at: https://court.topeka.org/fullcourtweb/start.do
  • Defendants can call the Municipal Court to check the status of their case 785-368-3776.
  • The number of individuals in the courthouse at one time will be limited and is dependent upon which phase Shawnee County is in each week. This means that at certain times, it may be a “one-in, one-out” situation and persons will be required to wait outside the courthouse before being allowed in to conduct their business.
    • Only those with court business/probation appointments will be permitted in the building. Defendants should not bring family/friends/observers to their court hearings and should make all attempts for alternate childcare arrangements.
    • To maintain appropriate social distancing in the courtrooms, defendants may be required to wait in the lobby or outside the building during larger dockets.
  • Defendants who report or are displaying symptoms of illness, are caring for someone ill, or are in a high risk category, should contact their attorney to request a continuance. Defendants without an attorney may file a motion for continuance by email or fax. Defendants should expect to attend their court hearing until the continuance has been granted by a judge.
  • Defendants are advised:
    • Anyone entering the courthouse or probation office will be denied access as follows:
      • If the person has been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with, or is suspected to have had, COVID-19 within the last 14 days;
      • If the person is experiencing two or more of the COVID-19 symptoms identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; or
      • If the person has traveled within the previous 14 days to an area subject to COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
    • Anyone denied access to the courthouse for the above reasons may contact the clerk’s office at 785-368-3776 for instructions on rescheduling or otherwise completing their court business.

Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center Reopening Guidelines

Phase 1 –Open Air Park

Phase 1 of the Topeka Zoo’s reopening plan will allow for high level restrictions to accommodate social distancing and prevent Covid-19 transmission. Phase 1 will be initiated after Stay at Home Order expires and social distancing is still required when the maximum gathering limit is set at ten or less.

 

Applicable Dates – Through the end of Shawnee County’s Phase 1 for Reopening

  • May 14 – 17, 2020 – Soft limited opening for Friends of the Zoo Members. Single use or daily tickets will not be sold.
  • May 18 till the end of Shawnee County’s Phase 1 – Single use daily admission tickets will be sold at regular admission price.

Phase 1 Zoo Guidelines:

  • Total number of guests in the Zoo will be limited to no more than 500. At an occupancy level of 500, family groups within the Zoo will have enough space to social distance at 17 – 20 feet apart.
  • Employees working at the Zoo will be required to wear masks when the Zoo is open when there is a chance that they may come within six feet of contact with a Zoo guest.
  • Guests visiting the Zoo will be highly encouraged to wear masks or other partial facial coverings.
  • Employees working in point of sale public areas will be working behind plastic or glass shields and will be required to wipe down or spray with disinfectant their work stations hourly.
  • When the Zoo is open, there will be an Environmental Services crew on site continuously working their way through the Zoo wiping down or disinfecting high touch areas and other hard surfaces.
  • Brochures and maps will not be available during Phase 1.
  • Membership purchases or renewals will be encouraged to be completed online.
  • Single day ticket purchases will be encouraged to be made online prior to arrival.
  • When making financial transactions, guests will be encouraged to make that transaction with a debit or credit card.
  • Guest flow through the Zoo will be in one direction and will utilize a figure eight configuration.
  • All buildings will be closed to guests with two exceptions:
    • One bathroom near the Zoo’s café will be kept open. This bathroom will be sanitized and disinfected every other hour.
    • Camp Cowabunga Building will be utilized only to allow guests to pass through a stanchioned area to exit to the connecting path.
  • The sidewalk leading to the Zoo’s entry will be marked with symbols to help guests social distance while waiting in line to enter. A similar spacing system will be utilized in front of exhibit viewing areas.
  • During phase 1, guests will not have access to feeding machines or animal encounters.
  • Animal interaction exhibits will not be open during Phase 1. This includes the Lorikeet Feeding Aviary, Farm Yard and Saving Sharks touch pool.
  • Playgrounds and drinking fountains will be closed.
  • Café food and beverage and Kona Ice may be available for purchase.
  • While a limited number of trashcans will be available, guests will be encouraged to take their trash with them.
  • Throughout the facility signage will remind guests to maintain social distance.

 

Phase 2 –Open Air Park with Limited Access to Buildings

Phase 2 of the Topeka Zoo’s reopening plan will allow for moderate level restrictions to accommodate social distancing and prevent Covid-19 transmission.  Phase 2 may be initiated when social distancing is still required but the maximum gathering limit is increased to 50.

 

Applicable Dates – The Topeka Zoo will transition to Phase 2 of its reopening plan at the same time Shawnee County initiates Phase 2 of its reopening plan.

 

Phase 2 Zoo Guidelines:

  • Total number of guests in the Zoo will be limited to no more than 900. At an occupancy level of 900, family groups within the Zoo will have enough space to social distance at 8 – 10 feet apart.
  • Employees working at the Zoo will be required to wear masks when the Zoo is open when there is a chance that they may come within six feet of contact with a Zoo guest.
  • Guests visiting the Zoo will be highly encouraged to wear masks or other partial facial coverings.
  • Employees working in point of sale public areas will be working behind plastic or glass shields and will be required to wipe down or spray with disinfectant their work stations hourly.
  • When the Zoo is open, there will be an Environmental Services crew on site continuously working their way through the Zoo wiping down or spraying with disinfectant high touch areas and other hard surfaces.
  • Brochures and maps will not be available during Phase 2.
  • Guests that plan to purchase single day use tickets will be encouraged to do so online.
  • Membership purchases or renewals will be encouraged to be completed online.
  • In the event a financial transaction needs to occur at the Zoo, guests will be encouraged to make that transaction with a debit or credit card.
  • Guest flow through the Zoo will be in one direction and will utilize a figure eight configuration.
  • The following three buildings will be open during Phase 2:
    • One bathroom near the Zoo’s café will be kept open. This bathroom will be sanitized and disinfected every other hour.
    • Camp Cowabunga Building will be open.
    • The Animals and Man Building will be open.
  • The sidewalk leading to the Zoo’s entry will be marked with symbols to help guests social distance while waiting in line to enter. A similar spacing system will be utilized in front of exhibit viewing areas.
  • Guests will have access to feed machines.
  • Animal interaction exhibits will not be open during Phase 2. This includes the Lorikeet Feeding Aviary, Farm Yard and Saving Sharks touch pool.  However, on a low traffic day Saving Sharks or the Lorikeet Feeding Aviary may be opened for short periods of time.
  • Playgrounds and drinking fountains will be open.
  • Café food and beverage and Kona Ice may be available for purchase.
  • While a limited number of trashcans will be available, guests will be encouraged to take their trash with them.
  • Throughout the facility signage will remind guests to maintain social distance.

Topeka Zoo Wildflower Sale- New Online Component

The Topeka Zoo is holding its annual Native Wildflower Sale on Saturday, May 9th from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The selection will include flowers to cover all blooming seasons through spring, summer, and fall. There will be more than 1,700 native wildflowers available representing over two dozen different varieties of available at this sale. Native wild flowers are hardy and already adapted to our local soils and climate, and to our local pollinators! Once established, native wild flowers are care free and return to you every year with minimal or no maintenance for care. All plants sold will be native to this part of NE Kansas.

Sale location will be near the zoos parking lot entrance and social distancing rules will apply. All flowers are $4.00 each. 100% of proceeds from the sale will go to the zoos conservation fund to support conservation of endangered species here at home and around the globe.

Due to the Covid-19 situation there are some enhancements to the sale. Plants can be purchased online by going to the Zoo’s Facebook page or Website. If purchased on line, the plants will be delivered to your car when you arrive between 8:00 and 2:00 tomorrow.

The zoos wildflower sale will occur on the day before Mother’s Day! So come to the zoo on May 9th and pick up some flowers for mom!

For questions or more information, contact Dennis Dinwiddie at 368-9134, or ddinwiddie@topeka.org.

 

Moratorium on Water Shut-Offs Extended to May 31st

The City of Topeka will be extending the moratorium on water shut-offs until May 31st. Customers must work in conjunction with the Utilities Department to develop a payment plan five days prior to their payment due date.
City Express at 620 SE Madison will remain temporarily closed. The Customer Service Call Center is open between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is available to work with customers to help keep their balances due manageable during this time. Customers who need to pay their water bill in cash can do so at authorized US Bank locations at the drive through window. Bills can also be paid by phone at 785-368-3111 or online at www.topeka.org/payonline.
US BANK LOCATIONS IN TOPEKA
Fleming Place 1017 SW Gage Blvd Wanamaker 1064 SW Wanamaker Rd. White Lakes 3600 SW Topeka Blvd. Pioneer Square 3625 NW 46th St. 5th & Jackson 434 SW Jackson St. 21st Street 5730 SW 21st St.
Please note that payments made through unauthorized locations may require a fee and take longer to process.
Doorstep, Let’s Help, the Salvation Army and the City of Topeka created the Water Share Program to assist citizens in need with their COT water utility bill. Please contact one of the agencies directly to request assistance.

• Doorstep 785-357-5341
• Let’s Help 785-234-6208
• Salvation Army 785-233-9648
The Utilities Refund Program (Franchise Fee Program) also offers assistance for utility bills. Please contact the Community Resources Council to apply 785-233-1365 after the program resumes taking applications on May 4th. For citizens looking for a way to help, you may go to www.topeka.org/utilities/watershare or call 785-368-3111. Donations may be set up as reoccurring monthly or you may select to make a one-time donation. The donation amount will be added to your next City of Topeka water bill.

City of Topeka to Postpone Consideration of Pay Reduction for All City of Topeka Staff

The City of Topeka will postpone a 3% pay reduction for all City of Topeka Staff and reconsider a potential pay reduction in June when actual sales tax receipts for March and April will be available. After a review of the sales tax receipts along with other revenue collections to date, in consultation with the Governing Body, a determination will be made as to whether salary reductions, or other decisions that may impact personnel, will need to be implemented in order to balance the budget by the end of the year. The earliest implementation of salary reductions would be reflected in the July 3rd paycheck. The Governing Body and City Manager will be taking a 6% salary reduction starting with the pay period that begins on May 2nd.
Governing Body members have expressed interest in City Manager Trout exploring the use of additional general fund cash reserves to cover expected savings that would have been achieved from the salary reductions being implemented sooner. Using general fund cash reserves for the next two months will provide the City with the time needed to review actual receipts related to sales tax revenue to guide the estimates of projected losses prior to adjusting personnel cost. Once the sales tax revenue information is reviewed, the city will determine the budgetary impact from the first four months of the year.
The City Manager will continue to explore potential savings in personnel costs through discussions with union leadership, City administration and the Governing Body. No across the board wage reductions will be effective in the next sixty days.
“I am looking at all possible options to reduce spending and offset revenue losses,” said City Manager Brent Trout. “I am continuing to work with the Governing Body and staff to find the best way to balance the budget while keeping the impact to services and staff at a minimum.”
It is still expected that the City of Topeka will experience a loss in revenue from the recent stay at home orders and appropriate steps are being taken to prepare for that loss. City staff has identified approximately $3.2 million of operational changes in the General Fund operating budget that will be implemented for 2020. In addition, it is anticipated that a minimum of $2 million in reserves will be used to offset the anticipated reduction in revenues. Similar changes will also be evaluated and implemented to utility and enterprise funds.

Topeka Zoo Receives Collegiate Cares COVID-19 Grant

Topeka Collegiate has selected the Topeka Zoo as a recipient of the Collegiate Cares COVID-19 Grant.  These grants are available thanks to the generosity of the Kokari Foundation.

“We’re pleased to support the Topeka Zoo’s online outreach to children and families,” said Dr. Lyn Rantz, Head of School. “Their virtual classes are a great resource – we’re thankful they are sharing the Zoo with all of us online.”

“Our environmental education programming is core to our mission,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley.  “I was amazed by how quickly our education team was able to adapt and begin offering this virtual programming that is aligned with state education standards.  We truly appreciate this partnership made possible by Topeka Collegiate and the Kokari Foundation.”

The $1,500 grant award offsets associated costs with the programming and continues the programming through the end of the school year.  The programs can be viewed live through the Topeka Zoo’s Facebook page Monday through Friday at 10:00 AM.  Programs alternate daily progressing through grades Kindergarten through 5th Grade.  Previous programs can be viewed on the Topeka Zoo’s Education Resource Website: https://topekazoo.org/explore/zooeducationresources/.

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As the only independent college preparatory school in the region, Topeka Collegiate’s mission is to prepare students for advanced education, successful careers and responsible citizenship through a commitment to academic excellence and humanitarian ideals. To learn more, visit www.topekacollegiate.org.

Moratorium on Water Shut-Offs Extended to May 15th

The City of Topeka will be extending the moratorium on water shut-offs until May 15th. Customers must work in conjunction with the Utilities Department to develop a payment plan five days prior to their payment due date.

City Express at 620 SE Madison will remain temporarily closed. The Customer Service Call Center is open between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is available to work with customers to help keep their balances due manageable during this time. Customers who need to pay their water bill in cash can do so at authorized US Bank locations at the drive through window. Bills can also be paid by phone at 785-368-3111 or online at www.topeka.org/payonline.

US BANK LOCATIONS IN TOPEKA

Fleming Place 1017 SW Gage Blvd Wanamaker 1064 SW Wanamaker Rd. White Lakes 3600 SW Topeka Blvd. Pioneer Square 3625 NW 46th St. 5th & Jackson 434 SW Jackson St. 21st Street 5730 SW 21st St.

Please note that payments made through unauthorized locations may require a fee and take longer to process.

Doorstep, Let’s Help, the Salvation Army and the City of Topeka created the Water Share Program to assist citizens in need with their COT water utility bill. Please contact one of the agencies directly to request assistance.

  • Doorstep 785-357-5341
  • Let’s Help 785-234-6208
  • Salvation Army 785-233-9648

The Utilities Refund Program (Franchise Fee Program) also offers assistance for utility bills. Please contact the Community Resources Council to apply 785-233-1365 after the program resumes taking applications on May 4th. For citizens looking for a way to help, you may go to www.topeka.org/utilities/watershare or call 785-368-3111. Donations may be set up as reoccurring monthly or you may select to make a one-time donation. The donation amount will be added to your next City of Topeka water bill.

Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center Mourns the Loss of Beloved Orangutan Lena

Lena, a 38 year old Bornean orangutan, passed away at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center yesterday. She became ill last Wednesday. With her condition not improving, zoo staff planned to do a full medical workup on Lena on Monday. At about 10:30 and under anesthesia, she was transported to the zoo’s animal hospital. While the zoo’s medical team was taking radiographs, Lena went into cardiac arrest. Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.

Lena was born at the Buffalo Zoo on April 2, 1982. She came to the Topeka Zoo from the Columbus Zoo in 2005. It was at the Topeka Zoo where she really flourished. She enjoyed interacting with people. If you were ever at the Zoo and had a kiss blown to you by an orangutan, that was Lena.

“Lena had a way of working her way right into your heart,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. Cris Sandberg, one of Lena’s Zoo Keepers, said, “She was special. I will always remember the love she had for the people she knew and her afternoon need for back scratches.”

A necropsy performed on Lena showed that she had an abnormal left kidney. “At the moment, it is not obvious as to the cause of death,” said Staff Veterinarian Shirley Llizo. Dr. Llizo has submitted for blood testing and histopathology to better understand the illness that led to Lena’s demise.

“Social distancing has made it more challenging for staff to grieve for the loss of Lena,” said Wiley. “In these uncertain times, we could not be more proud of our team and the care they offered Lena. She will be missed.”

Kay Reece, a Topeka Zoo Docent shared this, “Lena was a spirit animal. She loved her time outside watching from her barrel as visitors and friends came to see her. Lena remembered her friends and was always interested in what they had to share with her, whether pocket contents or bubbles, pictures or a kiss. Her instinct for learning and love for friends will be something I will never forget. Where a beautiful soul has lived; beautiful memories remain.”