TLC in survival mode shrinks office, staff

The website is black and the phone line constantly busy, but The Land Conservancy is still alive and is appealing for patience. TLC is also asking for donations and membership fees to be sent - temporarily - by snail mail.

The financially troubled conservation organization moved this month from spacious offices on Esquimalt Road to its former digs in Gonzales Observatory and the phones and website are not yet in operation.

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"We have the computers running, but we're not yet connected to the Internet. The wiring is not in very good shape," said board chairman Alastair Craighead, who hopes all systems will be running next week.

The number of staff has shrunk to about a dozen from more than 50. Among the latest layoffs is former deputy executive-director Ian Fawcett.

"The position is no longer on our [organizational] chart," Craighead said.

"We are in survival mode and rebuilding the organization and it's time for change. If we get through the survival period and into growth, we'll obviously be hiring new staff," he said.

Founder and executive director Bill Turner retired in June.

Further reductions are planned because it remains a challenge to meet payroll, Craighead said.

The money problems are creating complications at Abkhazi Gardens, where the only paid gardener has a contract until the end of the month. After that, it's uncertain how the gardener will be paid.

It is hoped the money can be raised through donations, Craighead said.

Abkhazi Gardens remain open, but the board was looking at closing the restaurant. However, a management proposal from an independent restaurateur is under consideration.

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