Wicked winter weather took toll on cemeteries

A tough winter took its toll on Minto cemeteries, but better weather should lead to  a better  appearance.

However, more resources will be needed in order to enhance maintenance in cemeteries here, public works staff has advised town council.

At the June 4 meeting, councillor Ron Faulkner asked for a staff report on cemetery maintenance procedure and standards.

“I do strongly feel that there’s a need for extra care to be given to our cemeteries,” Faulkner stated at the time.

Roads foreman Mike McIsaac provided a written report for the June 17 meeting. Public works committee chair Dave Turton pointed out McIsaac and other department staff were busy that evening cleaning up downed branches after a storm earlier in the day.

“Public works staff takes very seriously concerns of the public and council with regard to the cemeteries,” the report states. “Most comments received relate to issues of weather conditions, staff availability and budget. In 2014 we were several weeks late getting into the cemeteries due to the ice storm and the need to clear hanging branches to protect public safety. In addition the town is working with a new grass maintenance contractor which means time to understand site conditions that can only be appreciated once cutting begins. Now that weather is better and the grass maintenance contractor has developed a schedule we believe maintenance will be more along the lines of previous years.”

Faulkner, who stressed at the June 4 meeting that his concerns should not be interpreted as criticism of staff, stated on June 17 that he did not intend his remarks as criticism of the contractor either.

The report states staff is looking forward to improving cemetery mapping in order to avoid last minute decisions to accommodate family needs around the location of final resting places.

“These issues put staff in a vulnerable position with family and friends of the deceased at the time of internment and these situations are unavoidable in certain areas of the cemeteries due to conflicting old records. The $20,000 budgeted this year may not be enough to eliminate all problems, but we will report to council on this as we move forward.”

The report indicates once mapping work is complete, staff would like to take a more detailed look at the services provided and notes more resources will be needed in order to enhance maintenance.

“A possibility to increase staff presence in the cemeteries for 2015 could be combining cemeteries, Communities in Blooms and special events, hiring an operator and two students to complete these tasks for the summer months. Public works staff would assist as required with equipment and personnel.” The report points out the current cemeteries budget is $15,000 above revenue, but actual costs in 2013 were almost $35,000 due to ice storm damage.

Council received the report for information. Turton urged council members to contact McIsaac with questions about the report or cemetery operations.