July 30, 2013 9:58:08 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
The contract to maintain one of Columbus' most enduring landmarks will soon be up for bid.
City officials have given Friendship Cemetery Director Frank Goodman approval to obtain proposals for maintenance of the historical burial ground after the current contract with Triple K Integrated Services expires at the end of this fiscal year in September.
The city's contract for grounds maintenance is two years with a one-year option, Goodman said. Triple K has had the contract for the last six years.
Goodman said crews cut the nearly-70-acre, city-owned cemetery twice a month in the spring and once a week during summer at $2,850 per cut. Depending on what crews are doing on a particular day, usually five to eight workers are there each day mowing, weed-eating, picking up tree limbs and other duties to keep the cemetery presentable not only for the families of those interred there, but for the scores of tourists who are attracted by the cemetery's rich history.
"You have so many folks who come in just as tourists, just to go down there because of the history of it," Goodman said. "I have people call me all the time wanting to look up graves of different people and characters that were buried down there over the years."
Goodman said a walk through the cemetery yields remembrances of soldiers and people who helped shape the city of Columbus among others.
"Every war, just about, that we've ever had, we've got one (soldier who served buried at Friendship Cemetery)," he said.
The cemetery was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and has about 18,000 graves. The city still sells lots there for burial.
Goodman said the city would likely post its first notice of seeking proposals on Sunday.
Vandalism, stealing an occasional issue
Until recently there hadn't been any reported incidents of desecration or stealing of property from the cemetery, but on occasion it happens, Goodman said.
"About two or three weeks ago I had gotten a couple of calls on some flowers being taken," he said. "It goes in seasons. You'll have a report and then we'll get a public service or say we're going to have policemen going through there. We're going to prosecute to the fullest for stealing the flowers or desecrating the grave, trespassing, anything we can get them for."
Walter Land, who has family plots there and tends to them regularly, said he's had incidents of stolen flowers from his mother's headstone. Overall, the property is well taken care of, he said, but he'd like to see more supervision there to prevent thievery.
"I'd just like to see it kept up as well as it can. Sometimes when I go down there it looks like it's pretty well kept up and other times it looks like there's a lot that needs to be done. I keep up several squares for my family because I know if I do it it's going to be done right," Land said. "There's a lot of people in Columbus down there. My main concern is that things look good when we have people that come from out of town that visit down there. I think it's a good reflection on our city for them to come to a cemetery that's kept up well. I just hope we can get something done about these people that are stealing flowers off the grave."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.