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Town hires student cemetary crew

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By Megan Walchuk Editor mwalchuk@fortfrances.com

A crew of pre-trained and experienced summer students have been recalled to maintain the town’s cemeteries.

It may only be a quarter of its regular summer contingency, but the three summer students, all of whom have worked for the town in previous summers, will be focussed solely on keeping the cemeteries neat and trimmed, according to Manager of Operations and Facilities, Travis Rob. They began work on June 29.

The Town had initially decided to forego summer students this year, to help comply with Ministry of Labour COVID-19 requirements. The immense amount of work required to provide for the safety of a standard crew wasn’t practical, Rob had noted in a previous interview.

The lack of a student workforce pushed the town to reduce maintenance expectations - that included forgoing the planting of 64,000 flowers on individual graves. Many private residents have been attempting to take up the slack by weeding and planting themselves. But the immense workload, and skeleton Parks staff, had left many graves covered in long weeds.

“The Town tried to manage with the staff we had, as we could ensure proper distancing of staff and our ability to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Labour,” said Rob, in an e-mail to the Times. “The Ministry of Labour requires limited staff in vehicles, changes to the lunch room layout to promote physical distancing, enhanced cleaning of high touch surfaces, tools, equipment as well as on site handwashing stations and passive and active screening processing.

“We felt originally that we could maintain all of our sites at a reasonable level with the staff we had on at the start of the season,” he said. “However, there were contributing factors that pulled our staff away and resulted in us falling behind in our ability to maintain.”

Dock repairs at the sorting gap, fountain issues at the Lions Park and vandalism at Point Park are just a few of the unexpected projects which have kept staff from focussing on regular cemetery maintainance, said Rob. By focussing the student crew in the cemetaries, the need to move them around in trucks is limited, allowing staff to maintain Ministry of Labour guidelines, he said, adding that it also frees up existing staff to focus on other responsibilies throughout town.

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