City greenhouse struggles to keep Sandusky in bloom

SANDUSKY The city of Sandusky's budget isn't blooming and neither will Washington Park if the greenh
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The city of Sandusky's budget isn't blooming and neither will Washington Park if the greenhouse doesn't sprout some outside funding soon.

The green is shrinking for the city, making the future of the city's historic greenhouse uncertain.

"It's no secret that this region of the country is struggling financially," said Tom Speir, greenhouse foreman. "Sandusky's floral parks exist because the greenhouse exists. The only way we're going to see this thing survive is if we work on our revenue sources."

The greenhouse's existing revenue sources include palm rental services, commemorative floral mounds fees, Fourth of July plant sale and the endowment fund. They aren't enough to fertilize the greenhouse's future or pay for current operating expenses.

The tight budget forced commissioners to put the greenhouse and parks and recreation department on notice.

Rumors of closing the greenhouse spread. For Speir, those discussions are as bad as weeds or Japanese beetles for the future of the flowers.

Each year, the city plants 100,000 annually blooming plants, all raised in the greenhouse from seeds or cuttings.

This has been a tradition since 1908 when the city of Sandusky began operating a greenhouse at the Elm Street location. In 1972, the original greenhouse was torn down and replaced with a greenhouse with a modern heating system.

The greenhouse's budget amounts to about $200,000 this year, said Mike Pisarsky, parks and recreation director.

"Cutting the greenhouse on the surface seems like a plausible thing to do," Speir said.

However, he said, the greenhouse is the roots of the floral parks. Without the greenhouse, blooms might fade.

Commissioner Dave Waddington said he was among the commissioners concerned with the expenses of the greenhouse, particularly the $27,000 gas bill this winter. But recent attempts to make the greenhouse more efficient and weatherization of the facility have made up his mind that the greenhouse is worth fighting for.

"I think I want to keep this battle going and try and save this greenhouse," he said. "If we can increase the rentals and have more help in the community, we can make it work."

To make the greenhouse more efficient, a shade curtain has been added, weather stripping was placed around doors and windows and the thermostat was lowered by a few degrees and plants were placed closer together. One heat blower was also turned off. The gas bill was reduced from 2005's $39,000 bill.

"Greenhouses by nature are not the most efficient buildings because they're 100 percent glass," Waddington said.

"This tradition is in jeopardy," Speir said. "Average parks aren't going to do us any good."

Ex Officio Dan Kaman has also paid attention to the greenhouse.

"For the last two years, the greenhouse has been scrutinized pretty hard," Kaman said.

For Kaman, it comes down to balancing the arts with necessary services.

"We've been upfront and open so they know they could be first on the block, but they can save themselves if they can make themselves self supported," Kaman said. "To a segment of society, the greenhouse might be more important than the potholes in the street."

Speir doesn't feel slighted that the commissioners are concerned about greenhouse spending, but wants people to think long and hard about what no greenhouse would mean.

"It's a fabric what we do -- once you start to unravel it, it's ruined," he said.