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Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 03:12 pm

Oak Ridge may go private

Mayor floats proposal in executive session

 Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has proposed putting Oak Ridge Cemetery under private management.

The proposal, aimed at reducing the city’s subsidy of the cemetery where Abraham Lincoln is buried, came during a city council executive session held Tuesday. The city now spends $400,000 a year subsidizing the cemetery, which has 14 employees, Houston said.

State law says that public bodies must conduct business in public with narrow exceptions that include meetings to discuss collective bargaining agreements. Houston said that he outlined the proposal during an executive session because he considers it a labor issue, even though the collective bargaining agreement with cemetery workers doesn’t expire until the spring of 2015.

The city plans to solicit proposals from private cemetery management firms, the mayor said. At this point, the idea is more concept that concrete, Houston said. It may take as long as a year to make a firm decision.

“This is an option that we want to explore,” Houston said.

The other two options include selling the cemetery, which Houston says isn’t a good idea, or continued subsidies from the city’s general fund. There is currently at least one vacancy on the cemetery board that administers the cemetery, but Houston, who is tasked with appointing the board, said that he is not considering candidates. The board wouldn’t be needed if the cemetery was placed under private management.

“I have no one in mind, per se, since we’re moving forward n this direction,” Houston said.

At least one alderman opposes the idea.

“The city should not even consider giving up control of Oak Ridge Cemetery, a national sacred site,” said Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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