The hardworking volunteers who saved Schenectady’s Central Park Rose Garden will finally get financial help from the city.
They will get at least a portion of the fee paid to the city for weddings in the garden, City Council members decided Monday.
They have not yet hashed out the details, but agreed that the volunteers should get some of the fee to use on garden-related projects. They have also not yet decided whether the volunteers must seek council approval for the projects or simply report back at the end of each year.
Months ago, the volunteers asked the City Council to raise its minimal fee for weddings in the garden, and then pass along that fee to the volunteers for beautification efforts.
In October, council members agreed to raise the fee from $10 to $25 for residents and to $100 for non-residents, but couldn’t agree on whether to give the money to the volunteers.
Councilman Carl Erikson brought up the issue again at Monday’s committee meeting, arguing that the volunteers deserve funding.
Every year they buy more rose bushes, replace those that have died, and painstakingly care for the roses throughout the season. They have also raised millions to fix the ponds, build a new entranceway and construct a fountain.
“They’ve put in a ton of work,” Erikson said.
Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo agreed that they should get funding to support big projects, but said some of the wedding fees should support the nearby greenhouses as well.
She suggested that 15 to 20 percent of the fee be turned over to the volunteers who are trying to maintain the greenhouses in Central Park.
That facility once grew flowers for projects throughout the city, but this year the Department of Social Services cut the grant that paid the employees. They earned the grant by teaching horticulture to welfare recipients.
Volunteers have been maintaining the greenhouses, but they need at least $25,000 this winter to keep the heat on so the glass won’t break under the weight of snow and ice.
Erikson agreed that the greenhouse volunteers could receive a portion of the Rose Garden weddings fee, but Councilwoman Marion Porterfield objected.
She said greenhouse volunteers aren’t working at the Rose Garden and thus don’t deserve funding from the garden’s revenue.
Perazzo said the volunteers don’t have the time to work on both projects.
“There’s a small group of people working really hard … just to get it to remain standing,” she said of the greenhouse volunteers.
She added that she sees the wedding fee as general revenue that could reasonably be used for “the overall beautification of the city as a whole.”