“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo
Over the past few days it has been brought to my attention that there is concern regarding our fall cleanup in both the Warman Cemetery and the Warman Memorial Gardens. I want to take this time to respond to the concerned residents of our wonderful community.
The City of Warman takes great pride in both of their cemeteries. It is for this reason we find ourselves in the situation where we need to explain the rest of the story to our residents. The Warman City Council and administration have been accused of being insensitive and uncaring. This could not be farther from the truth. As a City, we take so much pride in our community. This includes our two beautiful cemeteries.
The decision to create a fall cleanup was not taken lightly. This decision was discussed and reviewed by our cemetery committee who include myself, council members, city administration including employees of the cemetery, as well as longtime residents of Warman all of which have a vested interest and concern for the loved ones laid to rest in our cemeteries. Many of the members of the committee have lost mothers, fathers, children, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors and friends. In fact, there are some around the table who have lost all of the above and many who have loved ones in our cemeteries. We all care and we do understand the pain of losing someone you care so deeply for. We also care about all those who have been laid to rest in our cemeteries and the families and friends who have been left behind.
As a committee, our goal is to continue to maintain two beautiful cemeteries. We consistently discuss, research and review ways to improve the level of care we bring to the cemeteries. We have heard from residents that they feel that these changes have been made because Warman is now a city, this is completely untrue. When discussing a fall cleanup, we did a significant amount of research into the practices of other communities. What we found was that many communities from villages, towns, cities and RM's do this each year.
In the case of our community, I want to give a bit of background as to why a fall cleanup for the cemeteries came to fruition. Over the years, we have been slowly trying to enforce our cemetery bylaws. We have gone above and beyond to find the families of the loved ones in the cemetery and let them know the concerns that exist in regard to the remembrance items placed. However, it is also very difficult to contact and locate families who are in violation of our bylaw. Over the past few days we have heard many of our residents speak about how they care for the plots of their loved ones and we do agree that in some cases this is true. We want to thank these residents for the care and love they have shown to the resting place of their loved ones. But we also need to note, that a significant portion of maintenance and care of loved ones graves fall back on the City of Warman. As well, if the remembrance items that were placed were only a light or two and a small amount of mementos that were securely affixed to the monument or marker this would not be a concern to the City. Unfortunately, the current situation in both cemeteries is much different. Over the years, the cemeteries have become so full of remembrance items, silk flowers, lights and other items, many of which become weathered and aged. This results in many items being blown and damaged across the cemeteries which creates issues for the City. For example, silk flowers left over the winter months often become damaged and blow across the cemeteries. The tiny wires from these flowers get caught in our lawn mowers, damage our equipment and not to mention injure our staff. We also have residents who place shrubs and flower beds at the resting place of loved ones and leave it to the cemetery staff to maintain. As well, each spring we also have residents come to the City upset at the condition of the cemetery as snow melts and concerned because precious remembrance items are broken or misplaced. If it wasn't for the dedication of our cemetery staff our cemeteries would not look the way they do.
Once it was decided that change was needed for our cemeteries, we began to research how other communities handled these issues. What we discovered is that our issues were common issues for many. We also found that the City of Warman allows its residents the freedom to place many items that most communities do not allow - many communities only allow fresh flowers to be placed. As a committee and City we did not feel that this was a direction that we would pursue. What we did decide was to find a middle ground where residents were given the freedom to remember in their own ways while at the same time ensuring care and maintain standards were maintained. Thus, the fall cleanup was decided as a solution to help mitigate some of the issues we were experiencing.
I understand change is never easy, and this can be especially difficult for instances such as these. The City of Warman Council and administration are not doing this because they are uncaring. We are just like you, we have lost loved ones and now are left to remember them. As a City, we have always prided ourselves on having direct communication with our residents. We value your comments and we believe that we are doing our best to meet in the middle of this issue. We do want to extend the period for which we dispose of items as we do understand this does not give some residents enough time to collect their items. Moving forward, the City will not dispose of items until January 1. All items will be left in the bin next to the shed in the Warman Cemetery. The City has also discussed and have decided to allow one solar light and one memento that is securely attached to the monument to remain. We will extend the cleanup until October 13th for this year. We do not want anyone to feel that these precious items mean nothing to the City, we understand these are special items for remembrance of loved ones.
As for those who have communicated to Council and administration, we thank you for your concern. These concerns help us to understand how we can make our community better and as a City we value residents input. I also want to note, I have responded to the resident who initially wrote the concern. I do feel that this concern could have been discussed in a manner that did not have hurtful words targeted at those who have made this decision or who have worked tirelessly to make our cemeteries beautiful. We are all a community and we need to work together.