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Management of Benton Harbor's cemeteries to be outsourced

By Denise Bohn, dbohn@wsbt.com
Published On: Sep 26 2013 05:09:47 AM CDT
Updated On: Sep 26 2013 05:45:46 AM CDT

Benton Harbor residents could see a break in their water bills as soon as next month.
The city is planning to outsource management of their two city cemeteries.

Emergency Manager Tony Saunders wants to use some of the money from that plan to pay down people's water rates by 5 percent.

Wednesday morning Benton Harbor’s Cemetery Board voted to outsource management of Crystal Springs Cemetery and the historic Morton Hill Cemetery, to C Management Company.

The company also operates the North Shore Memorial Gardens.

Benton Harbor’s Mayor James Hightower says people in the city have among the highest water rates in southwest Michigan.

The new management company has agreed to pay the city $125,000 under a 20-year deal.

However, last week the City Commission voted against the idea, saying they did not want the city to lose control of assets.

Hightower, who is in favor of the plan, says the city will still own the cemeteries, but with outsourcing, upkeep will improve greatly.

“Lowering user rates, what citizens want, I think that’s important, said Hightower.

And as for backlash from commissioners about moving forward with the plan, Hightower responded by saying, "You have some commissioners if you were handing out gold bars, they would not be the right size.”

Even though the Commission voted against the proposal, Saunders tells WSBT News, with the Cemetery Board's support he has the authority to still pursue an agreement with C Management.

The proposal will now be sent to the state’s Treasury Department for approval.
Hightower anticipates the new management company will take over October 1st.
The four people who currently work for the city to help maintain the cemeteries are expected to keep their jobs.