Have you been to the cemetery lately? This is one of my favorite questions since I’m in the business of visiting cemeteries. I know, I know – some people consider gravetending an odd business to be in but I have my reasons. And every now and then, outside parties reinforce my calling, as this story did:
GRAND RAPIDS – Tired of throwing $325,000 per year down a hole in the ground, city officials will consider outsourcing cemetery operations. Also recommended in a consultant’s report is the sale of markers and monuments, which years ago sparked strong public opposition, Grand Rapids administrators said.
“It’s always painful for me to put money into the cemeteries knowing that there has got to be a better way,” Second Ward Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said.
Grand Rapids is looking to shed an annual general-fund subsidy to support cemetery operations. Among the ideas put forth by New York consultant Lawrence F. Sloane: share cemetery management with an outside group like the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, promote burial grounds as recreational amenities eligible for grant funding and sell gravesite markers to boost revenue.
Because the city has cut spending to the bone in past years, officials now must “look outside the box” for other cost efficiencies, Sloane said.
“There really is nothing left to cut. The (cemetery) offices are closed. You’re down to the minimum possible staff,” he said. “You really have to increase revenues because the revenues are not adequate to cover the cost.”
City Manager Greg Sundstrom said the commission several years ago refused to generate revenue by selling markers and monuments, amid strong lobbying against it. Staff in recent years have focused on the expense side of the ledger, he said.
“We are at a skeletal level of staffing,” Sundstrom said. “The notion here is to focus more on the revenue side, either through increasing opportunities for revenues or through partnerships (with outside groups).”
Grand Rapids has six cemeteries staffed by 3 full-time workers and seasonal help, officials said.
This is why people like me exist…because our cemeteries will soon be overtaken by weeds unless somebody takes care of the lots. As the story illustrates, cemetery maintenance is getting too expensive for some cities and it’s a sad state of affairs. I can’t imagine how three full-time workers can keep up with six cemeteries, especially in the summer time. But have no fear, Gravetender is here! Well, I’m not in Grand Rapids but you get what I’m saying – call on me and I’ll come running. With me on the job, your loved ones final resting place will be free of weeds, dead leaves and tree branches, the headstone will be cleaned or polished and a fresh bunch of flowers will be left at the gravesite (or faux flowers, depending on cemetery rules).
Oh wait, how did this post turn into a shameless plug to get customers? I was originally trying to highlight the fact that our cemeteries are dying (no pun intended). Soon, and I’m talking in the next 20 years, your grandparents’ and parents’ headstones will likely be in a forgotten or abandoned graveyard, covered by dead branches and trash. Scary, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. Call me and I’ll tell you why.
Call me. Now.