Thunder Bay's Conservatory has a new lease on life after city council changed its mind Monday night and will now keep the building open.

The decision came after an intense debate that lasted for hours and included six presentations to council that outlined the importance of the conservatory. Numerous letters of support were also considered.


Thunder Bay city council has voted to keep the city's botanical conservatory open. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Councillor Brian McKinnon said he wants to see a new conservatory, but noted that putting up a net to catch falling glass is only a bandage for a bigger problem.

"It's not just falling glass. And, I am really concerned about that. [As] I stated that three weeks ago … if you want another Elliot Lake, there it is," he said, referring to the northern Ontario town’s mall roof collapse that killed two women and injured several others.

The decision to keep the conservatory open means the city will maintain the main tropical building, along with three greenhouses, and will allow staff to continue to grow and plant flowers for city parks.

Total costs unknown

Councillor Rebecca Johnson opposed spending money on the facility. The proposal to keep the conservatory open was a last-minute resolution presented by Councillor Joe Virdiramo.

"And so we're just … going to keep the greenhouses," Johnson said.

"We don't even know if that's a good thing to be doing. And, oh, by the way, that could cost us anything, well, we know it's going to cost us over a $1 million."

Johnson said the city is spending too much on the facility and she said she would hold those who voted in favour of the move to account.

"When you want a swimming pool, Councillor Virdiramo, I'm going to challenge you," Johnson said.

"And, say, if you want your Heath Park fixed up, then I'm going to say, ‘well, you're putting a million dollars into the conservatory’."

In the end, council voted to install a $76,500 net at the conservatory to catch falling glass, while also making repairs to the main building.

The city will also find money to repair or rebuild the three greenhouses used to grow plants for parks and displays. The total cost will be in the millions and is expected to be finalized next year.