Evart hires cemetery sexton

EVART — The decision to hire a new caretaker for Evart's Forest Hill Cemetery will help ease the strain the additional responsibilities put on the city's Department of Public Works.

Members of the Evart City Council approved the three-year, $47,500 bid from Randy Berger's RBC Contracting to be caretakers at Forest Hill Cemetery.

DPW Director Mark Wilson approached the council at its Dec. 19 meeting to seek bids for the position. There were calls and questions about the bid, however, Wilson told council members Monday Berger's bid was the only one received.

Wilson added the bid would save the city money, providing members with a breakdown of expenses over the last year.

"There also are unseen expenses, from the actual cost of labor and the hourly wages for the city employees. Those numbers don't include benefits," he said. "That would add another 40 percent for those costs."

Wilson said the city utilized groups from Michigan Works! and Michigan Rehabilitation Services to help the department in 2016, as well, which would be an additional expense if that was accounted for in the bid.

Council member Dan Elliot said the bid appeared to be fair, but the cost was a concern for him.

"My only concern is we have half the revenue we need to pay for it," he said. "We really need to look at the revenue side of this. The only way you get that other half is to charge more in other areas."

City Manager Zack Szakacs explained the additional duties tending to the cemetery require a lot from the small number of DPW staff.

"We only have three full-time employees and two seasonal," he said. "I understand what Dan is saying, but our manpower is really limited on the DPW side. We are really scarce."

Wilson said it becomes a critical situation when staff members are working at the cemetery when a water main breaks or other emergencies come up.

"The funeral schedule is what it is and we have to be there," he said. "If we have to be there, we can't really do a critical situation with the manpower we have.

"Even by adding one or two additional employees, there's a certain skill set that goes along with the work out there," he said. "You can't just hire a seasonal employee to dig graves."

As discussion continued, Zsakacs said it was up to the council to either make a decision or to hold off until there was a definite way to pay for the position.

"We can work through it during the budget session to show you that we can fund it," he said. "I'm 99 percent sure we can fund it.

"There are funds with the way everything has changed here — with the efficiency and cost savings you have done and my good staff. They don't spend money like has happened in the past."

Members unanimously approved Berger's bid.

City Treasurer/Assessor Sarah Dvoracek also asked council members to set a property tax exemption amount, as the board of review is scheduled in early March. She told members there were five people who applied for exemption in 2016, and four were approved.

Members approved to set the exemption limit at $7,500.

Officials also approved a resolution for Arbor Day and an extension for the Passport Grant.

The next Evart City Council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 6, at City Hall.