Monday’s city commission meeting saw commissioners approve purchases and contract amendments to keep improving local cemeteries.
Local cemeteries have gotten a string of upgrades over the course of the last year.
City commissioners have been approving projects related to cemeteries throughout the city and they have undergone some major renovations in just a few months. One of the first changes to come was when the city dished out more than $75,000 to use a service called PlotBox that maps and manages cemetery operations.
The new technology helps the Cemetery Operations office maintain more than 26,000 spaces in five local cemeteries that cover upwards of 52 acres of land. Up until the switch in August 2020, the office still had some data stored on index cards that dated back to the early 1900s. The maps in the office were pre-digitization and the entire department relied heavily on paper copies.
Unsurprisingly, that made things difficult to accurately track spaces and the PlotBox system started a “reset” for the city. The graves cemetery staff have verified are now accurately reported within three inches of their locations.
For the current fiscal year, commissioners have also been focused on constructing the Oaklawn Cemetery fence. On June 22, commissioners approved construction of the cemetery wall on Wheeler Street and the “scope of work included ornamental fencing which passes through a portion of Oaklawn Cemetery, along the East side of Wheeler Street.” The city said future plans indicate it will match the decorative fencing at Oaklawn and other cemetery locations.
To complete the fencing at the Oaklawn Cemetery on the east and west sides of Wheeler Street, City Manager Bill McDaniel will execute a Change Order for $20,652.29 to the contract with Ocala Fence, LLC for additional cemetery fencing. This comes after the city agreed to start a contract for $42,878.83 with the company for the start of the project on March 12. The additional money is to add fencing along the front of Memorial Park Cemetery, which falls in with the plan to match the decorative fencing at other locations. There was $65,000 set aside for the project in this fiscal year’s budget, so the change still falls within the approved budget.
This week commissioner also approved the purchase of one Kubota L47TLB-B Tractor/Backhoe from Gulf Coast Turf & Tractor, LLC for $50,330.70, which will be used in the Cemetery Operations Division. Currently Parks & Recreation has two tractor/backhoes in the division and neither were the right size to work efficiently in cemetery cleanup.
The 2014 John Deere is undersized and “requires an extraordinary amount of time to accomplish grave openings, and is not strong enough to lift heavy objects such as vault lids or monuments,” according to the city. The 1995 Ford is oversized and doesn’t fit into many areas in the cemeteries due to their tight layouts. It is also beyond its life expectancy and thus considered “unreliable.”
The John Deere will be transferred to the Parks Maintenance crew at Sansone Park and the old Ford will be dispositioned. The Procurement Division published an Invitation for Bid and received a response on Nov. 19, 2020, but upon evaluation it was “determined to be non-responsive to the specifications and requirements of the IFB.” So the Procurement Division decided the city’s best option was to purchase equipment from Gulf Coast Turf & Tractor, LLC, through piggyback of a Sourcewell (formerly known as National Joint Powers Alliance) contract for $50,330.70.
Oaklawn and Garden of Peace cemeteries also have had improvements via landscaping. Garden of Peace has a large brick entrance sign now and Oaklawn has a decorative sculpture piece that acts as a sprinkler for the area.