Michiana city looking for help managing cemeteries - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Michiana city looking for help managing cemeteries

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It is not something you hear a whole lot about, who manages cemeteries, but one Michiana city wants to let someone with more expertise handle theirs.

The city of Benton Harbor, MI, wants people to feel at peace when they are paying respect to their loves ones and they believe that starts with well kept grounds. The city thinks if they sell the cemeteries to a company who is familiar with cemetery management those families will be better served.

"[The Morton Hill Cemetery] is kind of a sore eye sight at times," said Charlotte Roper.

Roper works with a church across the street from the Morton Hill cemetery in Benton Harbor. She says sometimes the grounds at the neighboring cemetery get to be so bad the church has to take matters into their own hands by mowing the grass and picking up litter around the graves.

"You know these are things we don't mind assisting with, but it would be better if someone else could attend to it," said Roper.

Morton Hill and Crystal Lake cemeteries are both managed by the city and Mayor James Hightower says he has heard concerns.

"I've received calls a number of times over the previous year asking when it's going to be cut or when it's going to be taken care of," said Hightower. "Those are things you shouldn't have to call for."

The city recently decided their cemeteries would be better managed by an outside company. City officials have started searching for a professional cemetery business to take over because the city believes another company will likely do a better job.

In addition this move will actually help the city budget because the city will get paid by the other company to run the cemetery, according to the Mayor. Additionally the city will not have to pay city employees to do the extra work to manage the grounds.

"It's about providing the best level of service that we possibly can at a reasonable cost and this way we feel citizens will be better served," said Hightower.

Benton Harbor residents should not expect a change of management in the next few days, but the Mayor did say the city already has some bids on the cemeteries.

Roper and the church say they support the city's choice to lease the cemeteries and hope to see changes soon.

"[Morton Hill Cemetery] is a historical site and we would like to see it blossom," said Roper.

Demarious McKinney, a supervisor at the Crystal Lakes Cemetery, said in a phone interview he was not told about this plan until the public was informed. McKinney added the possibility of another company coming in and taking over the cemetery is a threat to his job.

However Mayor Hightower did say all current cemetery employees probably have a good shot of sticking around.

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