Cemetery conditions draws concern

Anthony Weber | Troy Daily News Riverside Cemetery worker Lee Christian weed whips around several grave sites Monday in Troy.

TROY — Melisa Brubaker spent the morning hours of Mother’s Day paying her respects at her parents’ graveside at Riverside Cemetery last Sunday.

What she didn’t expect was to be so upset over the conditions of the grounds at Riverside Cemetery.

After an early Mother’s Day breakfast with her husband, himself a foreman on a landscaping crew, the Brubakers stopped to lay flowers at her parents’ headstone — Fredrick ‘Bud’ and Barbara Brown — located in the northwest corner of Riverside Cemetery.

“I hadn’t been out there for a couple of weeks,” said Brubaker. Brubaker said she was born and raised in Troy, and is now a resident of Bradford. “My daughter had been out there probably three weeks before that, and she didn’t say anything. We’ve been out there many, many times, and I’ve never seen it look that bad.”

Brubaker said the overgrown grass and weeds shocked her and upset her the rest of the day.

“When we got around the tree (to get to the grave site) it was like, ‘Oh my God!’ Excuse my language, but I said, “What in the (heck) happened to the cemetery?” she explained. “It doesn’t even look like they’ve done anything since spring started.”

Brubaker said she got out of the car, walked through the tall grass and looked around Riverside Cemetery.

“I just could not believe how tall the weeds were, how tall the grass was,” she said.

Brubaker said she was also upset that the main areas of the cemetery were mowed and kept up by Adams Street and Riverside Drive, but the rest of the cemetery had not been touched.

“My grandmother made it an issue when my father was little that you go and pay your respects and you go and take care of the graves, plant flowers or take flowers on Memorial Day,” she said. “And if it’s not taken care of, do something about it.”

Brubaker took to social media and posted on the “You know you’re from Troy, Ohio, if…” Facebook Page and was met with several other residents complaining about the conditions of the cemetery.

According to the city of Troy’s public service and safety director Patrick Titterington, the city of Troy employs two full-time employees and allots 10,500 hours for part-time work devoted to the care of both Riverside and Rosehill cemeteries.

“This time of year is always tasking for not only our cemetery maintenance but maintenance on city-own greenspace in general, including our parks,” Titterington said. “Wet weather, the fast growing season, and funerals can hamper our ability to keep up with mowing and trimming. City Council added over 2,100 hours of part-time staffing in 2015, or over 1 new full-time equivalent, to enhance our mowing/trimming operations this year.”

Riverside Cemetery has 65 developed acres with 40 undeveloped acres which includes a wooded area. Rosehill Cemetery has four acres to maintain.

According to Titterington, the cemetery department’s budget is $387,976 for 2015.The cemetery department’s budget has increased every year with the exception of 2013. The cemetery department’s budget was $365,842 in 2011; $369,413 in 2012; $338,413 in 2013; and $376,903 in 2014.

“One note is the misunderstanding of those who own plots at the cemetery: people pay one fee, one time for a plot. They do not pay an annual maintenance fee,” Titterington said. “Therefore, the city depends on future plot sales and funeral fees to pay for the maintenance of existing grounds. If those sales are down in a particular year, then the General Fund must increase its subsidy.”

Brubaker said she knows how hard landscaping work is, having performed professional lawn services in years past. Her husband now is a foreman for Evergreen.

“There were some weeds around my parents’ stone that were over 2-foot tall,” Brubaker said. “I know how hard that work is, and I know how hard it must be to take care of the cemetery. I know how hard it is to do that work when they don’t want to hire extra people.”

“Trimming is very labor intensive and unfortunately, we cannot mow and trim in some of the weather we’ve had,” Titterington said. “Additionally, staff had just applied weed control treatments to the areas of concern. When we do that, we tend not to trim immediately, to allow the treatments to work.”

In regards to missing tokens, flowers and other articles left behind in the cemetery which may have come up missing or damaged, the city of Troy has “Use of Flowers-Decoration” policy posted on its website. The policy includes semi-annual cleanup of the grounds on March 1 and October 15. The policy also addresses what may be planted or left behind on grave sites including solar lights, benches, decorations and other items.

The policy can be found online at http://www.troyohio.gov/227/Use-of-Flowers-Decorations

“The city has spent a lot of money on many, many different things,” Brubaker said. “I don’t live in Troy anymore, but I was born and raised there … I feel like I have a right because my parents’ resting place is in Troy. We were raised to believe that you respect people, but you also respect the dead. The city has spent a lot of money on frivolous things when they should be spending it on the cemetery because those workers are not getting enough funds to hire enough help out there.”

Troy Daily News called Riverside Cemetery employee Larry Shaw, but he did not comment on the matter.

“Mayor Beamish and I will continue to evaluate cemetery operations to ensure upkeep is maintained and we are looking at future alternatives, such as contracting out those services or folding cemetery operations under another City department,” Titterington said.