Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has taken off the table an idea to defer Oak Ridge Cemetery operations to a private company.
Citing lack of city council support, Houston said the idea won’t work — but he says he approached both the cemetery’s board of directors and members of the city council and got a different initial reaction.
“The public reaction we got from it was quite different than what the private reaction was,” said Houston.
Aldermen have said for weeks they’ve been irritated due a lack of information about the proposal, but Houston said he couldn’t speak for the aldermen as to whether lack of information led to lack of support.
Some Springfield aldermen did speak for themselves, however. Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin says he was willing to listen to proposals, but he didn’t like how little information was made public — especially to cemetery director Mike Lelys.
“When [Lelys] told me ‘Joe, I don’t know anything about what’s been going on the last year with privatization,’ I realized… this is bad,” he said.
Ward 8’s Kris Theilen had similar thoughts.
“How can you possibly get an idea of what we need to be getting in a [Request for Proposals] or having some kind of consultant if the director of the cemetery’s not involved in any of it,” he asked.
The city spends $400,000 a year to subsidize the cemetery, which is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln.