Cemetery care woes continued for the City Council and Cemetery Board, with discussion centering on the city of Olney taking over maintenance at Pioneer and Restland cemeteries Monday, Sept. 9.  The caretaker who had been hired to take care of the cemeteries was relieved of his duties officially on Wednesday, Sept. 4, after not performing to the standards required by the city and Cemetery Board.

“We went with him back and forth and checked on him,” said Rick Clarida, Cemetery Board chairman. “The city went and helped him twice. We appreciate the city helping out along the way.”

Now that the cemeteries are once again without a caretaker, the City Council members discussed the possibility of the city stepping in on a permanent basis.

Right now, Clarida said the only equipment the Cemetery Board has for maintenance is a 2012 John Deere tractor and a couple of edgers. Previous caretakers provided their own equipment.

“The city has always had the obligation to maintain the cemeteries,” City Attorney Bill Myers said. 

The trust set up for care of the cemeteries provides a revenue stream to the Cemetery Board to help offset costs of maintenance, but belongs 100 percent to the trust, itself. 

Phil Jeske II asked Clarida how much money the Cemetery Board currently has, and Clarida estimated the total at $17,000. Parker said it might cost $13,000 or more to get a good mower to help the city with cemetery maintenance.

“As soon as we start to mow the cemeteries, people will stop giving money if they think it's going to the city's coffers,” Jake Bailey said.

Jeske then suggested that future expansions and equipment purchases and maintenance could be left to the Cemetery Board, using donations and perpetual care funding it receives, and the city could cover all costs of labor without dipping into the Cemetery Board's funding.

“They (Cemetery Board) wouldn't have to worry about day-to-day costs,” Jeske said.

Ronnie Cowart, code enforcement officer who also is in charge of the parks department employees, said the city has used its own mowers as well as employees' personal mowers at the cemeteries previously.

“If you've got an employee, he should be able to maintain that on a weekly basis,” Cowart said. “If he gets behind and we need to help him, we will.”

With preliminary details sketched out, conversation then turned to other matters at the cemetery – particularly plot owners using outside caretakers and prohibiting others from working on their plots. Clarida said there are multiple people caring for plots privately, with some even placing “Keep Off” stakes on the property to keep the board- and city-hired caretakers away. Wanda Stroud said in the past some of these caretakers have even used the city's water to water those lots for an additional fee.

“It's time consuming, too, going around,” Cowart said.

Several council members took issue with the presence of stakes on plots, though.

(For more of this story, check this week's edition!)