January 06, 2006

Freeholders Deck the Halls...with $50+ Plants

OK, So Call Me Scrooge
Over the years I have heard tell of the purchase by our county government of live holiday plants used to decorate to the Freeholder meeting room. Rumor has had the cost at anywhere from $700 to $7,000 - even as high as $17,000 or more.

So I was not surprised last week, when attending the last Freeholder meeting of the year, to have my senses besieged by three-foot tall, fire-engine red poinsettia plants, in baskets, decking the halls. There were 16 plants in all ringing the room.

"May I select my parting gift now or later?"

I was half tempted to jokingly inquire, when at the podium to speak about the freeholder pay raises, if I should make the selection of my lovely parting gift at that time or after the meeting. After all, I reasoned to myself, my tax dollars had paid for them, so I guess I could take one home. Obviously someone would be taking them home for the long three-day holiday weekend as they were much too beautiful to be tossed in the dumpster.

House of Flowers

It is my understanding that the annual floral display comes to the county by way of House of Flowers in Linden. I also understand that the florist shop is owned by none other then Mrs. John Gregorio. Gregorio, you will recall, is the last name of the Democratic mayor of the city of Linden. Isn't this a cozy little set up?

Not your average plants

Poinsettias of this quality in decorative baskets the size of large waste bins are currently going for as high as $89.00 each on the Internet and these certainly were not the $19.99 variety available at the local home store.

A visit to the Web site of the flower shop in question -- http://www.houseofflowers.com/ -- has confirmed their price range for plants of this dimension and presentation. Total cost is in the neighborhood of $1,400 just for the flowers in the freeholder’s meeting room.

Truth be told, since my eyes were trained on the plants I did not give any real thought to the evergreen wreaths adorning the walls. We can only hope that they were artificial retreads from years past.

Could this be a special order?

What struck me as peculiar was that among the red plants was one lone white poinsettia plant, much smaller in size and in a different color basket. Sticking out like a sore thumb, it looked like a special order. One can only speculate that perhaps a perspective recipient had voiced a preference for white over red as it would blend in better with the decor at home or in the office. Or perhaps this odd ball was just thrown in by the florist for good measure.

Not having seen any other plants on my trek to the sixth floor I wondered just how many more plants were hanging around the building and out of the public eye.

Deck the Million Dollar Atrium

The weather that evening was particularly bad, freezing rain and snow, so when I left the building I was glad that I was plantless as the poor thing would have been frozen before having a chance to adorn my Garwood living room. But I did look at the bare public reception area and thought perhaps that the $1,400 would have been better spent if the freeholder’s plants had been put on public display in what has been referred to as the “Million Dollar Atrium” so everyone who passed by could enjoy their tax dollars hard at work rather than just we four spectators and 20 or so employees in attendance at the meeting that evening.

Call me Scrooge if you like; but what a waste.