A Chatham-Kent resident wants to see the municipality take better care of its cemetery as many headstones are being moved out of place.
Wayne Rumble visits his family at the Evergreen Cemetery in Blenheim every second month and thinks municipal equipment is to blame for displaced tombstones and ground markers run into the dirt.
The cemetery is municipally owned and operated.
Rumble’s main complaint is that the rows of graves are no longer in a neat file as some bases have been shifted at an angle. Headstones are also turned off their bases.
“People come in with big machines and cut the grass and they hit the stones and damage the stones. I’ve seen it.” he said.
Rumble says he has heard people blame vandals, but believes that only heavy machinery can move the big and heavy monuments.
Personally, Rumble’s family had to call twice to straighten out his grandfather’s headstone after he noticed two separate incidents, he added.
Public Works is in charge of burials for the municipally run cemeteries and use backhoes to get the job done.
“They don’t take the time to do (burials). It’s just another thing they have to do. It is very disrespectful,” said Rumble. “They can use smaller equipment.”
Jeff Bray, manager of Parks and Open Spaces, explained that because the cemeteries rely on Public Works for help, the municipality has to purchase equipment that can be multi purpose. He also noted that his department has not received any burial complaints.
“We haven’t had an issue with them hitting graves. These guys have years of experience.”
Bray also noted that some of the markings which are in the ground are not necessarily run into the ground because of machines or vandals.
“This is the time of year too, around May 1, where we start topping up graves and work is completed from the winter, because as you can imagine that the earth settles sometimes,” he said.
Bray did note that in the previous two years, there has been a higher volume in grass cutting complaints, but he explains that long bouts of rain made it hard for contractors to keep up with lawn maintenance.
Rumble would at the very least like to see a full-time manager or caretaker for the Blenheim cemetery to which Bray concurs.
Currently, Chatham-Kent has only one supervisor for its six active cemeteries. Chatham, Dresden and Wallaceburg all have their own full-time staff member. The rest operate with assistance from Public Works.
“We’d love to have another cemetery employee. But we’d have to go through council to get the approval to hire a full-time employee,” Bray said.