Saying the city's taxpayers would wind up footing the bill, Rancho Palos Verdes officials have spurned an offer by Marineland's owners to construct a marine-animal care center in the community.
In a statement issued this week, city officials said the proposal by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich to donate up to three acres and $250,000 to the city to build a care center is inadequate because it does not provide funds to maintain and staff it on a long-term basis.
"The community desires a long-term solution for this facility, not the short-term solution offered by HBJ," the city said in the release.
'Stands Behind Pledge'
Peter Jovanovich, a Harcourt executive vice president, said through a spokeswoman this week that the company "stands behind its pledge" to build a care center either in Rancho Palos Verdes or another city in the Los Angeles area. The center would replace a facility that once operated as part of Marineland, which Harcourt closed in February.
Jovanovich did not comment on the funding concerns in the city's statement, which came about a month after Harcourt offered to donate the money and land at Marineland. The city has offered to donate land at Point Vicente Park for the center.
But no matter where the center is located, Rancho Palos Verdes officials said the city does not have the money to operate it. Harcourt's offer to give the center $20,000 a year for two years to allow time for permanent funding sources to be found is not enough, they added.
The city estimates it would cost $200,000 annually to operate the care center.
"Somebody is going to have to belly up to the bar and pay," Mayor Mel Hughes said in an interview this week.
Under terms of the company's proposal, a 900-square-foot classroom facility and a 50-book library would be built so that the care center could be used as an educational facility.
The company said it will keep the animal care center at Marineland open until a new center is built. The center, which was established in 1978, is the only one in Los Angeles County.
For many years, the center received some money from a corporate sponsor and last year a private foundation was formed to raise money. However, the center was primarily operated as an adjunct of Marineland.
During the past two years, about 275 marine animals were cared for at the facility by Marineland employees. In previous years, however, the number had been higher.
Last week, Jovanovich said in an interview that Harcourt expects to sell the approximately 100 acres of prime oceanfront land that Marineland sits on in the near future. He declined to identify the prospective buyer.