Both sides say the small zoo has been very successful under the leadership of Richard Molchany, president and CEO of the non-profit Lehigh Valley Zoological Society.

Commissioners opposing a six-year funding deal are optimistic the zoo will thrive with less county support. Those supporting it believe the zoo needs continued county support to ensure that it will continue to thrive.

“I don’t want to punish you for your success,” Commissioner David Jones told Molchany.

Dougherty noted he’s often said the zoo will never become self-sufficient, adding: “I may have to eat crow or lorikeet or something, because they have been making a lot of progress. In three years, we may get to a point where they may be self-sufficient and we may not have to subsidize them.”

“It’s never going to be self-sufficient if we don’t help it get there,” said Schware.

Croslis said if the three-year funding plan moves forward, the six-year plan he previously recommended will be withdrawn at the Dec. 11 commissioners meeting.

If the six-year funding plan is not withdrawn, both it and the three-year plan will be voted on at that meeting, explained Scheller.

Molchany told commissioners the zoo plans to spend $175,000 on a new reptile exhibit in 2014. He indicated county money will not be used for that new exhibit.

Dougherty said he’s leery about any expansion when the zoo still needs county money because it’s not making a real profit.

Dougherty suggested the zoo could get by with less money by having fewer but better exhibits. Molchany previously has told commissioners the zoo occasionally needs to add new features to keep people coming back.

Evaluating Cedarbrook

The commissioners’ Cedarbrook committee will hold its hearing on Cedarbrook’s financial situation before the regular commissioners meeting on Dec. 18.

Scheller requested that Cedarbrook officials not only define the problem at that hearing, but bring the solution.

Said Creighton: “We don’t care abut the nitty-gritty of how to run the operation. We just want to know what solutions or what choices we have to make it profitable.”

“Or to break even anyway,” added Scheller.

In October, the county had to transfer $3.6 million to Cedarbrook to keep it open through the end of this year.

On Tuesday, officials indicated the nursing home projects a $5.9 million shortfall in revenue in 2014.

It would be very difficult to cut $5.9 million in expenses to eliminate that shortfall, said Cedarbrook administrator Jamie Aurand.

Representatives of LW Consulting, which runs the nursing home, spent much of a Tuesday night Cedarbrook committee meeting reeling off obscure statistics in response to a question previously posed by Ott: Where would patients go if they didn’t have Cedarbrook?

The Cedarbrook officials said they provide a service to 637 residents “who would have to go quite a long distance” to find another nursing home if Cedarbrook did not exist.

They said at least some patients could wind up “in a for-profit facility,” while others would go to other nursing homes owned by counties, such as Gracedale in Northampton County. They also said some could wind up in hospital beds until other places would take them, which would put more pressure on the hospital system.

Ott maintained Cedarbrook is absorbing part of the market demand for a group of people who theoretically could be placed in other nursing homes. “We’re essentially competing with other homes to take those customers.

“If we weren’t here, or if little by little we downsized, eventually it would be worthwhile for those other homes to absorb that customer base.”

Jones said: “The bigger question is ‘what problem are we trying to solve by the questions being asked?’” He said if the issue is “whether there is a justification for Cedarbrook to even be in existence, then I can understand some of the questions, because that is where those questions are intended to lead.” But he said that is not an appropriate conversation “at this point in time.”

Countered Ott: “I will not insult your question if you do not insult my question. Commissioner, we have an operation that just came to us and took another $3.6 million from taxpayers. It’s not a small issue we’re talking about.”