2012-08-28 at MIDNIGHT
Partially opened: City approves conservatory recommendations
FILE -- the Centennial Botanical Conservatory.
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THUNDER BAY – Reports of falling glass forced the closure of the Centennial Botanical Conservatory in February but city council has decided to re-open a portion facility to the public.
City administration presented a first report to council at Monday night’s meeting. The city closed the conservatory after reports came in that glass had fallen from the roof. Administrations recommended the city re-open the tropical display house to the public, but keep the east and west wings closed.
Instead of waiting to install the net in January, council voted to speed up the process and have the net up as soon as possible.
It will cost the city more than $76, 000 to install the safety net.
Keely Banning, head of Friends of the Thunder Bay Conservatory, attended the meeting and said opening the facility was a step in the right direction.
“It’s just a start,” Banning said. “We would like to see the conservatory up altogether as it was before but we can at least say we can get can a part of it open.”
Banning said those councillors who spoke negatively about the conservatory showed they haven’t even visited the facility. The number of residents who voiced their opinions in favour of keeping the conservatory on the groups Facebook page shows people care about the facility, she said.
Neebing Coun. Linda Rydholm described the conservatory as one of the city’s “best kept little secrets”. She said some people might have forgotten about the conservatory and added there’s great opportunity there.
“If we have the safety measures in place then I think maybe we will be a little bit more assured that the plants there will really stay alive and they are going to get good care,” Rydholm said. “I am concerned about the facility. People may even come this fall as soon as they can get in there. This can kind of be a test for the public.”
But despite the decision to open the facility, some councillors questioned the merit of having the conservatory at all.
Given the age and state of the facility, Red River Coun. Brian McKinnon said he didn’t want another tragedy like the one in Elliot Lake where a number of people died when the local mall collapsed.
“It sounds to me that the place is ready to fall apart,” McKinnon said. “Critical condition is 30 per cent and by the end of 2013 it’s going to be 42 per cent. I don’t want another [Elliot Lake] on our hands here. I’m concerned that the engineers and experts have looked at this building and that it’s not just pieces of glass falling but it’s worse than that.”
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs admitted he never went to the conservatory as he wasn’t a fan of looking at flowers and wanted to know if the public even wanted to have the facility open.
“I don’t want to spend $76, 000 to learn in January that we may end up closing it,” Hobbs said. “I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen but I’m not even aware if there’s a will in the public to keep this facility open."
City manager Tim Commisso said the old and inefficient conservatory couldn’t continue because it was costing the city money and would need to be replaced at some point with a newer facility.
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