City cemetery to receive maintenance from inmates
By LYNETTE SOWELL
A local church now has an agreement with the City of Copperas Cove that will maintain the city’s cemetery, with the help of inmates from the Texas Department of Corrections.
At its Feb. 21 meeting, the Copperas Cove City Council approved an agreement between Hillside Evangelical Methodist Church, also known as Refuge Ministries, for the use of the church’s van to transport trustee prisoners from the Hughes unit at the Gatesville Prison to provide grounds maintenance.
The city’s cemetery grounds and maintenance fall under the Parks & Recreation Department, which has groundskeeping crews that see to the city’s parks and other green spaces.
Inmates will be transported to the cemetery twice per month during the peak lawn maintenance season, with the schedule to be determined between Brown, the prison and with the church.
Park and Recreation Director Joe Brown said a crew of five laborers and light equipment operators maintains the 88 acres of cemetery space.
Brown said the city’s average is one full-time employee per 30 mowable acres, where the national average is one full-time employee per 12-19 acres of mowable space.
This new collaboration of the city with the church and the prison will free up five city workers to tend to other areas of the city’s park space. It will be a huge benefit, Brown said.
Brown called it “a very creative way for our staff to move other maintenance staff to other park maintenance.”
The biggest piece to make it happen, Brown said, was transportation. The city has no non-departmental vehicle of the size needed to transport the prisoners.
He credited Ronnie Viss, who serves on the cemetery advisory board, for helping pave the way for the agreement with Refuge Ministries.
Brown also said that his department has consulted with the city’s attorney regarding the legalities of the agreement to include the use of the van and a driver. The city will be responsible for the fuel and the driver, with Brown comparing the use of the van to renting a car—return the tank full—and also keeping a vehicle log. City reps spent months creating a maintenance unit between itself and the Hughes Unit.
“I’m excited about the sustainability of the agreement and what it means for improving the maintenance of our cemetery and also the maintenance of our parks, with the people we have today,” Brown said.
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