MONTESANO — Following deplorable conditions at the Wynooche Cemetery and plenty of complaints that came with it, Montesano city officials have canceled their contract with a Tacoma-based firm and have hired a local contractor to do the work, instead.
In May, the city awarded a $42,000 contract for the out-of-area bidders to do the work. Mayor Ken Estes says that they just couldn’t do the job.
Estes says he was willing to accept a mistake one or two times, but the contractor just couldn’t keep up with the mowing or the regular upkeep at the cemetery.
“I went up there and personally saw where they ran over a bouquet of plastic flowers and they just threw them everywhere and didn’t stop to pick them up,” Estes said. “They ran over an American flag and chopped it up and just left it and let it lay. And I was so angry when I saw that. I don’t get angry much, but I got angry. We called the very next day; told them to come up and take care of it and the next day they came up and I walked up there to the very back corner and the grass was up to my knees. I took pictures myself and called the guy and said, ‘You’re done.’”
Many residents at the June 25 council meeting commented about the unkempt cemetery with one resident taking around a large poster of pictures showing the horrible conditions.
Estes said that the city was hoping the contractor would realize what was happening.
“Memorial Day is the biggest day we have for visitors at the cemetery and we wanted that cemetery to look real nice on Memorial Day,” Estes said.
Instead, two days before the holiday, the cemetery still looked bad.
“They sent a whole big crew up here and it looked OK,” Estes said. “It wasn’t the best, but it looked OK and then they just stepped back and then these pictures were taken like two weeks later and then we jumped them again and Mike again called them.”
Bev Hall, who volunteers at the cemetery all the time, said that she’s been disappointed with the way the cemetery looks all the time. Hall said she was spending more time than she usually has been picking weeds around veteran’s headstones, Pointing to the spot where Vietnam veteran Johnny Chambers died on Jan. 8, 1967, Hall points to the dead grass on top of the headstone and all of the weeds nearby — which she immediately begins to pull.
“The condition of the cemetery is up and down over the years but it’s been real bad lately,” Hall said. “Our veterans deserve better. The veterans should not be forgotten.”
Hall said she’d like to organize a cemetery cleaning party to help the veterans buried at the cemetery sometime in the near future.
The contract ended July 15 and City Administrator Kristy Powell has invited them to bid on the contract again next year so long as they understand the job better.
“It was a much bigger job than they had bargained for,” Powell said.
D&B Landscaping of Montesano was the second highest bid for the contract at $47,000 and they were given the new contract, Powell said. Even before the contract officially started they began working up at the cemetery, Estes said.
Powell said that the city used to have a summer employee do the work at the cemetery, but the job just got to be too much of a task.
“He would start at one end and by time he got to the other end to do weed eating, it was always in progress,” Powell said.
Powell said the city negotiated a provision into the union contract allowing the cemetery work to be done by a contractor three years ago.
“The union recognizes that we don’t have enough employees to do everything here and do that and there was no way we were going to hire another employee just to do the cemetery,” Estes said. “An employee is $80,000 to $100,000 a year when you count benefits.”