ELYRIA — City officials hope the addition of more part-time workers and the purchase of a new mower to replace a broken piece of equipment will allow them to handle high grass in the city’s cemeteries and lessen complaints about cemetery maintenance.
Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said Tuesday that a combination of issues have left the cemeteries “in less than ideal conditions” on many days. This is in spite of a crew of two full-time and three part-time workers who are responsible for maintaining the properties.
“It started with the mechanical breakdown of a major piece of equipment,” Siwierka said.
This took a zero-turn mower out of commission. The plan is to purchase a new one, but City Council’s Finance Committee has to approve the purchase order at their next meeting set for Monday.
Council committees meet monthly during June, July and August instead of twice a month like the rest of the year. The summer schedule has pushed back purchase order approvals for major purchases by several weeks.
Siwierka said the city is looking to hire two additional part-time workers while adding additional hours to the current part-time workers to handle maintenance during this busy season.
“We have the dollars available for part-time, temporary workers because we sold some cemetery land earlier this year,” she said. “We know they need help because the cemetery workers are responsible for opening and closing graves, funerals, maintaining the buildings and lands, and weed whacking and mowing. If you compare today’s cemetery staff to that of a few year ago, there is probably a third of the number of workers in that department.”
Siwierka said the city also has lost its community service workers from the Lorain/Medina Community Based Correctional Facility. The program that allows those inmates to work at the cemeteries has ended, she said.
All of the issues have added up grass and weeds growing taller than liked at the cemeteries.
“We are adding more hours, more employees and more equipment. We are aware of the issues and have a plan to fix it,” Siwierka said.
The dead may have nothing to say about the conditions of Ridgelawn, Brookdale and Murray Ridge Road cemeteries, but the living have been both vocal and active about their displeasure in how the resting places are cared for by city workers.
The breaking point came earlier this month when Ariel Lawrence of Hamilton Street took the liberty of going to Ridgelawn with her push lawn mower to cut it herself.
She was lauded the following Monday at an Elyria City Council meeting by Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, who invited her as an example of a resident willing to do more than just complain about a problem.
Lawrence said on a social media post that she moved to Elyria in March, but she already has a lot of pride about her new home.
“There are so many beautiful parts of Elyria that shine,” she wrote. “Everyone on my street takes the time to make their yards look beautiful, and I want my surrounding areas to be just as beautiful.”
Lawrence said she was spurred to act after reading other posts about the condition of the cemetery near Gulf Road and Ridge Street. She was joined by Johnnie Martin, another resident and stranger to Lawrence until they met up for lawn care duty at the cemetery.
That was earlier this month at Ridgelawn. But just days ago, it was Brookdale that angered another resident who reached out to The Chronicle-Telegram with concerns that nothing was being down at the city cemetery. His complaint included cell phone video taken on Father’s Day showing rows of flat headstones nearly covered with overgrowth.