When the Montgomery County commissioners toured the Human Services Center in Norristown earlier this year, they were stopped by two workers.
Would it be possible to take the forlorn-looking rooftop garden just off the third floor and make it come alive again, the pair wondered?
Why not, said the commissioners.
On Wednesday, in a mist more nurturing to perennials than people, several hundred county workers gathered to dedicate the not-so-secret garden that now features park-style benches scattered among raised beds of green-and-white hostas and lacy, red maples.
"There is no reason why we all can't have access to this gorgeous garden," said Commissioner Leslie Richards before the ribbon was cut. "I definitely am going to be having lunch here. It's a great, peaceful place."
The rooftop aerie overlooking DeKalb Street had been neglected since an assisted-living facility operated by the county closed three years ago. But it needed only a good cleaning and some fresh plants to become usable.
Julie Kleinguenther and Christine Harubin, whose Child Care Information Services office overlooks the space, were the ones who sold the idea to the county commissioners. Once approved, the project was relatively easy to complete.
The county spent a "nominal" sum on several umbrellas, but most of the garden's other elements were already in place, said county spokesman Frank X. Custer. The labor was performed by Public Property Department workers.
In a pep talk to employees, Commissioners Chair Josh Shapiro said the newly installed Democratic administration, which took office in January, was trying to create a sense of pride and "family" among county workers by listening to their needs and responding.
"The work you do is challenging and difficult," he told the crowd of social service workers. A total of 550 employees are based at the center, at DeKalb and Fornance Streets.
Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. echoed Shapiro, saying county leaders realize that in past administrations, a sense of camaraderie between county leaders and the rank-and-file was lacking.
The rooftop garden will be open during county working hours; smoking is prohibited. The public can access the garden but only when accompanied by a county worker.
Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog "MontCo Memo" at www.philly.com.