SAGINAW (WJRT) -
(06/03/14) - Despite recent criticism, Saginaw officials say there is plenty of grass cutting going on at the three cemeteries operated by the city.
The city heard plenty of complaints about high grass at those cemeteries during Memorial Day weekend.
A wet spring, combined with budget cuts, put maintenance crews behind schedule.
Now, Saginaw is getting more help.
"We are already operating expenditure over revenue," said Phil Karwatt, Saginaw Public services director.
Karwatt says he only has three people assigned to the city's three cemeteries, and their main job is preparing for burials. Temporary workers handle most of the lawn-mowing and trimming around gravestones and markers.
Karwatt says he's already over budget.
"In order to keep up on this grass, once a week you have to mow 400 acres of property and cut around and trim around over 120,000 headstones," he said.
Now, the city is getting help.
Tri Cap Community Adjudication Program is a probation center that helps offset the overcrowding of jails. When residents saw the tall grass problem at the cemetery, Tri Cap's executive director Gary Davis says his people volunteered.
"I've got 15-17 people over there," he said. "A majority of our residents are from Saginaw, so they want to help, they don't want this stigma over them either."
The residents assigned to cut the grass are non-violent offenders under supervision. The Michigan Department of Corrections is also assigning parolees who need to perform community service to the cemeteries.
"It's a good opportunity for the city, it doesn't cost us anything," said John Stemple, Saginaw building inspector.
While the man and woman power situation might be solved, Karwatt still has a problem with riding mowers.
"Out of the six we have, only four are running, and they are 20-25 years old," he said.
He says the grass should be in much better shape for the rest of the summer and fall.
"I'm going to do my best to make them look great, but with what I have, I will accept good, a lot better than we had on Memorial weekend," Karwatt said.
According to Karwatt, the budget for Saginaw cemetery maintenance is already $18,000 over projection for the fiscal year, which ends in July.