PLAIN CITY -- The cemetery district has been using a city backhoe free of charge with a city employee running it on his own time to dig graves and close them back up again, but the city council has decided there now should be a charge for the use of the backhoe by the cemetery district.
Mayor Jay Jenkins said the arrangement for use of the backhoe was just a verbal agreement with a handshake that goes way back, but there was never any documentation of the agreement.
Plain City employee Dusty Palmer opens and closes the graves with the backhoe on his own time, according to Councilman Bruce Higley.
"They have done this forever. There is no compensation there," said Higley. He checked on the cost of renting a backhoe and found they are usually rented by the day, but it only takes about an hour to open and close a grave. Higley said the minimum a backhoe could be rented for was three hours with the cost for that rental being a little more than $200.
"If they still want to use it, it's fair to charge them $100," Higley said. He asked council members to decide if they want to allow free use of the backhoe by Palmer and the cemetery district or to start charging for it.
"Part of the reason this has come up is this was discussed several times with the cemetery board and they were under the impression there was compensation back to the city," said Councilman Brent White. "We looked into it and found out it wasn't happening."
White said he thought the cemetery district would agree to pay a fee for use of the backhoe.
White also said any agreement with the cemetery district and Palmer was up to Palmer but the city should be compensated for use of the backhoe.
"One of the complications where we are is we set up the cemetery district separate from city operations," White said.
Higley said the cemetery board believed the operator was paying the city for use of the backhoe, but it has not been so. Even though he had suggested $100 for use of the backhoe, Higley said he would be comfortable with a fee of $50 or $75.
There was no vote on the issue by council members, but they did agree to look into the matter as well as the issue of insurance on the backhoe while it is being used for the cemetery district.