Director of utilities and public works Dave Carlstedt has been working very closely with the Crouse family over the past few months to make as much information to the council available, but there are still some issues that have not been addressed.
For one, the Crouse family has not completely updated their approximately 1,200 graves to a digital format yet. What they do have is a meticulously cared for, hand-drawn map about the size of a dining room table with the names of the lots hand-written on it. At Tuesday’s meeting, the family estimated there are 600 unsold graves available on the modest 6-acre tract of land off East College Street.
Crouse estimated that at the graves’ current price, there is about $400,000 or more to be made in the future. He told the council the cemetery’s two main assets are the perpetual fund and the land where graves can be sold. Last year, the Wilmore Cemetery sold 17 plots.
Secondly, the day-to-day operations would be the city’s responsibility, including lawn care, grave digging, burial and other maintenance issues. Carlstedt said the Crouses have done a “tremendous” job at throughly keeping and maintaining the cemetery, but that they’ve probably done it a lot more efficiently with practice and cheaply as a labor of love than the city could.
Carlstedt said if there were to be a transfer, the Crouses would be needed to stay on as consultants “for a while” afterward just to train city workers on what do to. Carlstedt also said he could not accurately calculate the man-hours or overtime cost that the city would incur for the daily operations.
What Carlstedt could tell the council was what the Crouse family was paying for certain services such as digging a grave and what they’re paying people to keep up the grounds — the problem being that the Crouse family is paying a lot less that what the city would have to pay an employee for the same work.
“At this point, as a generic comment, we would pay more than it would cost the Crouses to keep up,” Carlstedt told the council.
According to the documents Carlstedt has reviewed, he said the cemetery had expenses between $20,000 and $25,000 annually and that at the very least the city would need to be prepared for that much in expenses.
Carlstedt said the Crouses have a great paperwork system but he was “overwhelmed” by the prospect of taking over such a complicated system, especially since most is not digitized.
“We’re just going to have to accept that it’s going to be an expense for the city,” he said. “It’s not $50,000 and it’s not $5,000.”
Councilman Jeff James said he was for taking ownership of the cemetery but offered some ideas, including outsourcing care and upkeep, which could offset the overhead to the city.
Council member Kim Deyer also had reservations to taking any action until the council had surveyed the property and more information was supplied to the city attorney, Bobby Gullette, and he reviewed the costs and legal responsibilities.
Rainwater encouraged the council to move forward but they took no action except to step up the effort for cost analysis and impact study of what taking over the cemetery would mean to Wilmore.