To the editor:
Council is meeting on Thursday to discuss the conservatory’s future. An often overlooked, but essential, component of our conservatory is its production capacity, made possible by its greenhouses, which are being considered for divestment.
The conservatory’s production greenhouses are used to produce all of the flowers for our city parks, but they play a much larger role than this. They are necessary for propagating new plants, quarantine (biosecurity), strategic acclimation/healing/rest and horticultural care of plants, rotation of displays (seasonal displays being highly favoured as a reason for visiting conservatories), ongoing re-propagation of existing plants for in-house replacement and potentially even for trade with other conservatories. Horticulture operations made possible by use of the greenhouses achieve substantial annual capital project savings by growing perennial plants internally for storm water retention sites while also helping Thunder Bay to become a more climate-ready city.
Mayor Bill Mauro stated to me in an email he believes many on council value the conservatory as a community asset,” but I do not get the sense that many on council value the production greenhouses as a community asset.
For those councillors on the fence or actively considering divestment, I want to stress that the numbers indicate this would be the wrong decision and doing so would essentially be cutting off the hands of the Conservatory!
In-house parks plant production costs $55,000 a year and in-house installation and maintenance of park flower beds is $254,000 a year.
Conrast that with contracting out plant production for $80,000 a year and contracting out installation and maintenance, which is about $312,000 a year. Thus we see a net savings of $83,000 annually, according to corporate report No. R 23/2020.
If the city can produce, install and maintain plants at cost for the next 50 years, as they have been for the previous 50 years, my calculator says $83,000 times 50 years is $4.15 million in savings.
Why would we purchase plants at marked-up prices? Why would we even consider surrendering our greenhouses and all their added value if it just means someone else can build and maintain their own private greenhouse at taxpayer expense?