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I have to tell you; I am sick to death of Spring Hope’s appearance being neglected. I am also sick to death of Bailey’s appearance being neglected.
Almost every single day, there is something on social media about the condition of any of the cemeteries in those two towns, the piles of limbs that linger for weeks and the hip-high weeds on town rights-of-way.
In Spring Hope last week, the situation reached a boiling point that it tends to reach each summer when the weeds are getting high. Last year it was a front-page picture of Spring Hope Town Manager Jae Kim push-mowing the town grass by the depot — the centerpiece of the town — that had grown as high as my belt, and I am 5’9”. Our town’s upkeep looks so bad that Our State magazine refused to put pictures of it in its publication two years ago, and nothing has changed since to improve it despite numerous please and complaints.
The grave image set off the annual “Why is this still happening?” from Town Hall followed by the annual “We are so sorry and promise to do better” from Envirolink, the contractor responsible for public works in both towns.
Last week, it was images I took of an open grave in Spring Hope’s Meeks Cemetery, the vault top busted completely open, revealing the grave’s contents, that initially caught the attention of some in Spring Hope who questioned why it hadn’t been reported by grass crews — but of course, it was the never-ending grass saga that put the icing on the annual event of whatever you want to call this.
Spring Hope commissioners on June 1 vented what seemed to be several years of bottled up frustration in dealing with what can only be described as Envirolink’s pathetic attempt at maintaining our town.
Envirolink representatives explained that they relied on their employees to take pictures after the grass was mowed to show it had been done — and even though you not only have to drive directly by Meeks Cemetery on your way into Spring Hope from Envirolink’s corporate headquarters in Bailey, you actually have to drive into the cemetery to access the town’s wastewater treatment plant, which is also under Envirolink’s contract, and its trucks can be seen back there several times a week if not every day. Unless you’re driving with your eyes closed, how do you miss seeing that there are weeds 2 feet high on either side of you?
According to one commissioner and the town manager, Envirolink told them after the grave incident that getting the cemeteries back to acceptable condition was a priority and it would be done that week. Does that song sound familiar? Kind of like “the leaf and limb truck is on the way now,” only to never actually make it due to what seems like never-ending mechanical issues that conveniently appear when these guys get called out for poor performance.
At the June 1 meeting, they were point-blank asked if the task was complete. Neither man could answer, so commissioners and several residents presented the answer for them — no, it was not. Not even close.
Their crew cut one area, took a picture and called it a job done. No supervisor ever bothered to check, even though they drive by and through the place on a regular basis — and we are paying these guys a quarter of a million dollars a year for this level of stellar service.
After a harsh tongue-lashing from multiple commissioners in Spring Hope, town officials encouraged the Envirolink representatives to leave the meeting early so they could go check the cemeteries, since they were apparently too busy to do so during working hours. Two days later, the cemeteries hadn’t been touched.
With two weekend funerals coming up at Oakdale Cemetery, town officials contacted Envirolink and asked that the cemetery be mowed. The answer they received — and this is public record — was that the crews had been committed to another job and would not be able to, even though these same people had committed to Spring Hope to have our cemeteries done the week before. So much for following through on the commitment to us.
In the end, town officials had to hire the company that opens and closes graves for the town to mow the cemetery — at a cost of $1,100 over the more than $20,000 a month the town pays to Envirolink, and based on the contract, town officials probably can’t deduct that amount.
As of Thursday afternoon, Meeks Cemetery had still not been touched. That, my friends, is what you call throwing the town the proverbial middle finger and basically letting us know that your empty apologies are just that — empty apologies with absolutely no intention to attempt to repair a damaged relationship.
Spring Hope has run its own public utilities department before, and we can do it again. The starting point to making this better is officially notifying Envirolink of its deficiencies and giving it the proper amount of time to fix them before the company is considered in breach of contract.
This should have already happened — and I am calling on commissioners to do it when you reconvene later this month. Take a stand and put some consequences on the terrible service that they give but we keep paying for.
The taxpaying residents of Spring Hope deserve that — and as keepers of the town’s purse, you are the only ones who can do it.
If these guys were town employees, would you accept the level of work we are getting, or would you fire them? We all know the answer to that already.
Mark Cone is owner and operator of SouthernNashNews.com.