SHERBROOKE – The police report left nothing to the imagination – or everything.
“On July 28, 2022, Guysborough County District RCMP received a report of a disturbance on Hwy. 7 in Sherbrooke,” it began. “RCMP officers learned that a 72-year-old woman had attended the municipal office as she was upset that flower baskets were not being watered in the town. The woman then threw a flower pot on the ground which smashed.”
The statement to The Journal from Cpl. Chris Marshal of the force’s public information office in Halifax continued: “On July 29, an RCMP officer attended the woman’s home and spoke with her about the incident that had been reported. The woman and our officer had a productive conversation concerning how to appropriately raise issues when they occur. The investigation has since been concluded.”
June Tate, the 72-year-old woman in question – who lives near Sherbrooke’s downtown and is a long-time member of the St. Mary’s Garden Club – might now laugh about the cop who showed up at her door, if she wasn’t still bothered by the sight of taxpayer-funded blooms withering for all to see along Main St.
Regarding her visit to the municipal office, she told The Journal, “There was no throwing ... What happened was that [after] I’d seen the first dead [flower basket], I took it up [to the office] and set it in a chair in the cubby hole adjacent to where [the receptionist] should have been sitting, but she had her back [to me]. I said, ‘You could see if [you] could water this and bring it back, but I think it’s dead.’ The receptionist wouldn’t even speak to me, wouldn’t even give me eye contact, so I left and started for home. Then, I phoned Linda.”
Linda Macintosh, Tate’s St. Mary’s Garden Club colleague, said, “June had taken one basket in and spoke to them, and then I was just going to look at the basket. And then she called me and we met, and we took six more that were dead up to the municipality. We sat in the lobby and there was nobody there. The doors were wide open, but nobody came out, so we just left the baskets. We didn’t know what to do with them. We couldn’t leave them on the street. They were totally dead, and they looked awful.”
If neither woman knows exactly how the “smashing pot” comment found its way onto the police summary to The Journal, they do admit that the 20 public flower baskets that normally adorn Sherbrooke’s Main Street in the summertime are a point of pride for them and the other 20-or-more members of the St. Mary’s Garden Club.
Last spring, Tate said, she spent a great deal of time at MacMillan’s Greenhouse, just outside of town, planting seeds, dividing young plants, potting and repotting until the baskets were ready for public display adjacent to Historic Sherbrooke Village.
Typically, she said, the municipality covers the estimated $1,500 cost of the baskets and is responsible for their care and maintenance, including watering. But, she insisted, that hasn’t been happening this year. As a result, she noted, at least 10 baskets are either dead or irretrievable. “The agreement is that we [volunteers] see that they are put up, making sure that the brackets are up and that kind of stuff. We don’t do the watering.”
She added: “The [Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s] councillors have always helped us as well as they can. But, if we’re inviting tourists to our community, we can’t have our flowers dead on the posts. We’re supposed to be a lush, clean and healthy [place].”
On Aug. 2, the Garden Club expressed its “dismay and intensely emotional reaction over the care of the beautification of our little town” in a joint letter signed by Tate and Mcintosh and emailed to all members of St. Mary’s council and senior staff.
“Not only is it a lack of concern, but an attitude of disregard on multiple levels [and] raises several issues of concern from the Garden Club,” it wrote. “The flowers cannot be replaced at this time as the season has already come and gone. The flowers also sequester seasonal carbon from the air making our environment healthier and stronger thus counteracting seasonal smog.”
Moreover, it said, “the Municipality has historically carried the responsibility of the watering the baskets as they were incorporated with the care of the public gardens already maintained. The funding required to replace original hanging baskets with another set of hanging baskets would imply that monies have to the pulled from other funding streams, thus begging the question of ‘where.’ This leads the Club to question if funding is being allocated fairly and appropriately within the Municipality. [There is] utter disrespect of the numerous hours of volunteer work of the members of the Club.”
It noted: “Moving forward, the Garden Club is seeking clear and transparent communication. Does the Municipality need assistance to maintain the public gardens? If assistance is needed, then why not reach out to the community via social groups and community newsletter? There are a multitude streams of communication, why not make use of them?”
The letter concluded, “[We] request an apology to McMillian Greenhouses, as they have been contributing to Sherbrooke since 2012.”
In the postscript, it added: “No need for RCMP.”
In an email to St. Mary’s Chief Administrative Officer Marissa Jordan on Aug. 5, The Journal asked whether the municipality had lodged a complaint with the RCMP against Tate, and whether it had a response to the specific complaints and demands contained in the garden club’s letter. In reply, she stated: “Staff will not be providing comment regarding the correspondence. The Municipality believes it is more pertinent to communicate directly with all local organizations that it is fortunate to partner with and has already done so.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal