Editor’s note: This email was written in response to a request for comment by the Valley Voice’s Catherine Doe for the article “Heartburn for Tulare Cemetery District constituents over pay raises, grounds upkeep.“
This email is quoted in the article and provided here in full.
Catherine Doe, you asked if I would like to comment about what the public has addressed as to concerns of why the cemetery grounds have had a lack of maintenance. Well here is the explanation, not the excuse, because there is no excuse for not having properly maintained grounds but there are reasons and explanations as to how we got here. But also, know that we have been working on bringing on temporary help to get this caught up, there is a process so it takes some time but it will happen.
Concerns of condition of grounds are valid. The grounds are not at our best nor even near our best. There has been progress in areas with more green grass but we still have areas of concerns that are still a challenge. It is also important to note that we have grounds men to care for overall grounds and maintenance, we do not have gardeners. The difference is gardeners will tend to more details of your flowerbed areas and smaller grounds. Our grounds men job description also includes assisting families with finding plots, helping families pick out a plot for new services, burials which involves opening and closing of graves, setup graveside services, maintaining equipment, maintaining grounds, leveling headstones, gopher issues, filling holes from gophers issues underground that make cavities then heavy watering scheduling fills into those cavities and causing surface ground collapse (which yes they happen within minutes), repairing sprinklers, spraying, trimming trees and many more tasks. The board had approved to have a total of a 9 man crew about middle of last year and have been able to maintain that number until April of this year. We are down to 8 total grounds men since April. For over a month we have been about 2 down between health and light duty issues that leaves us with 6 grounds men to handle 2 cemeteries with a total for over 50 acres. With only those 6 grounds men there has also been requested days off of sick time used which of course lessens our work force even more. Now add the high heats for couple of weeks which then affects the hard working hours outside even though the crew starts at 6am by 10am the crew was struggling. Along with all they do lets now factor in the Burial Services which for each service from beginning to end will include 2 people sometimes 3 at anywhere from 3 to 4 hours for each service. What does that include about 1 ½ hours for opening, 45 minute graveside setup, 1 hour to close and 30 min to come back repack and seed. So here was our services scheduled for last 3 months (remember 6 employees):
- April we had 26 services in a 19 workday month
- May we had 29 services in a 21 workday month along with the prepping for the Memorial Day Service that was held here at the cemetery on Memorial Day which requires set-up of canopies, chairs, extra attention to the flag area and working with Amvets or their needs for that day
- June we had 23 services in a 22 workday month
We also need to account for the heavy watering schedule that we kicked up in the last few months that has our grass greener but also growing faster than we have the man power to maintain. Along with all of the above I need to mention the 3 hands on training sessions and safety meetings within the last 3 months that the crew has had. Now the explanation doesn’t clean the weeds around the headstones nor does it fix some ongoing issues on our grounds, but we just hope it gives the public an understanding of why things are definitely not at their best or even near their best on the grounds within in the last month or so. Let me clarify in no way am I even saying that our grounds were perfect before when we had our full crew, absolutely not, there is so much to still be done. The cemetery has been here for over 150 years and in no way can it all be resolved in a year. But the heart and determination of the crew to make this the best cemetery it can be and that the public can be proud of is definingly there. The crew has had to adjust to so many changes in last few years that you can imagine it is not easy, but they are doing it. I am very proud of the crew and our office staff. They all work so hard at what they do and still face the challenges of working in the public view. I am also very proud of our Board of Trustees because no matter the differences there is still one goal, to have a cemetery that can always be strong financially and respected by the public by giving them a beautiful resting place for their loved ones.