Back to the drawing board for cemetery maintenance
By LYNETTE SOWELL
An agreement between the City of Copperas Cove, Refuge Ministries and the Texas Department of Corrections to help maintain the city’s 88 acres of cemetery has fizzled.
Back on Feb. 21, the Copperas Cove City Council approved an agreement for the use of the church’s van to transport trustee prisoners from the Hughes unit at the Gatesville Prison to provide grounds maintenance. However, Joe Brown, the city’s Parks & Recreation Director, said the city was recently informed by the Hughes unit that personnel wouldn’t be available for the mowing.
So now it’s back to the drawing board to supplement the city grounds keeping staff which in addition to the cemetery, also provide maintenance for the rest of the city’s green space and facilities.
While the national average for city groundskeepers is one full-time employee per 12-19 acres of mowable space, the City of Copperas Cove’s average is one full-time employee per 30 mowable acres.
Brown said the city schedules to mow the cemetery twice per month during high flow season of April through September with a five-man crew
“Park mowing/edging is plotted and scheduled based on several factors, i.e. park usage, time of year, growing seasons, events and staff tempo, to name a few,” Brown said.
In late May, current and former residents expressed concerns via social media about the height of the grass in the cemetery, especially where the curbed, older sections of the cemetery were concerned.
Brown said the responsibility of the mowing is the grounds crew, not family members.
“The old section is very time intensive due to the concrete design, to include that almost 100 percent of the grass on the old section is invasive weeds i.e., blue stem, dollar weed, bluegrass, barnyard grass, broadleaf plantain, etc.” Brown added those types of invasive grasses grow three to five times faster than common Bermuda or St. Augustine.
He is also hoping to find a mowing and maintenance solution to aid the city’s employees with the cemetery area.
“I’m looking at getting an ‘Adopt the cemetery’ program to assist. We had worked very hard with the Hughes unit prison to assist as this would have been a huge step for the cemetery. As discussed, they very recently said they now cannot assist us, so, yes we are looking into options.”
Brown said one option might be plot owners maintain their actual section and have the City maintain right-of-way within the cemetery.
“We will see as we continue to look at ways we can maintain this facility better…We have to go with an option that is plausible and legally works for the City.”
Part of the cemetery’s perimeter fence had been damaged, and workers placed 10 large limestone blocks to serve as barrier fence.
Brown said that building and grounds maintenance is performed by city employees for the Hills of Cove Golf Course, all the fire stations, Civic Center, the library and senior center, Utilities Department, Solid Waste, the police department, City Hall, all parks and pools, wastewater treatment plant, the municipal court building and the animal control center.
During the month of April alone, the city’s light equipment operators and laborers spent 100 hours mowing parks and 30 hours weed-eating at parks, as well as 99 hours mowing the cemetery, two hours repairing playground equipment, 47 hours trimming trees, 30 hours on grounds cleanup, six hours helping with events, 35 hours of fence repairs, nine hours servicing and repairing equipment and eight hours moving furniture.
The Parks Department also planted seven trees in the cemetery to help with the beautification plan, with the eighth tree planted on Arbor Day. They also placed 10 large limestone blocks in front at the cemetery where the fence had been damaged, to serve as barrier fence.
Those personnel are also responsible for maintaining the athletic fields at City Park, in April spending 25 hours mowing football / soccer fields, 48 hours mowing baseball / softball fields, 13 hours mowing outside of all fields, 12 hours weed eating all fields, 29 hours on baseball game prep, 82 hours on infield dirt work, 28 hours aerifying fields, 19 hours on grounds cleanup, six hours working on fences, three hours working on player benches and 22 hours manually watering fields.
“In this past month, staff installed 72 tons of red infield dirt to fields 4 and 5, also dressed them out with 48 tons of red infield conditioner. They also installed a new scoreboard on field 4 and repaired the one on field 3,” Brown said.
In addition to the parks and cemetery green space, maintenance on the golf course is a regular occurrence, with a total of 182 hours spent in April mowing greens, tee boxes, fairways, roughs, as well as weed eating, verticutting greens, spiking the greens, along with spraying herbicides and fungicides, applying fertilizers, and servicing and repairing equipment at the course.