Cemetery officials say they are aware of community complaints about the worsening conditions at both Jewish Memorial Gardens locations and have hired a temporary contractor to clean up both sites.
“We have struggled for several years now to get the service levels of our maintenance to as high as possible a level, and we had a breakdown in service levels this year due to problems we had with our third-party contractor,” said Jonathan Freedman, chair of Jewish Memorial Gardens.
The board of directors is aware of the complaints about the general appearance of the cemeteries for several weeks and at first worked with the contractor to resolve the issues, Freedman said. The contractor quit in mid-June.
David Kardish said he and his wife usually go to the Bank Street cemetery every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to visit the graves of their parents.
“We’re very upset because we found it to be very disrespectful; not only for our parents, but for people we didn’t know,” he said.
Kardish said they found overturned gravestones, weeds growing wildly, and fences in dire need of repair and a coat of paint.
“We are aware of this and are working on this. We are very unhappy with the situation, ourselves, and … we will not stop our efforts until the grounds are back in shape,” Freedman said.
Both the Bank Street and Greely-Osgoode locations had been impacted, with Bank Street requiring greater upkeep. Kardish said he had been seeing a decline in cemetery upkeep as far back as 2009.
Freedman said the board worked around the clock to get the grounds back up to their proper service levels, which includes the temporary contractor that has already been working on-site.
The work was completed at both locations by the week after Father’s Day, one of the most important memorial days of the season, Freedman said.
Flowers had been delivered to Bank Street and were in the process of being distributed, but the fact that they had not yet been placed on each grave was a cause for concern among some wishing to pay their respects at the graves that had been missed.
Freedman said the graves that had been regrettably missed by the original deadline of Father’s Day have now been taken care of.
The temporary contractor may become permanent, and the board is exploring all options, Freedman said, anticipating a resolution by late-June with community announcements to follow.
The Bank Street location is slated to get a “major facelift” starting in spring 2015. Some old trees will be removed and all of the roads leading into the cemetery will be improved. A new road will run along the back of the cemetery to allow people to drive in and park on the grounds.
Staff and volunteers will ensure our loved ones are appropriately honoured and respected, and are also taking steps to ensure this situation never recurs.