Missoula City Cemetery Criticized for Misuse of Tax Dollars By Private Sector Businesses
There is no lawsuit yet against the City of Missoula, but Garden City Funeral Home and Crematory owner Rick Evans says he and Garden City Monuments Owner Bob Jordan are prepared to sue if the city doesn't back away from performing monument work, like the selling gravestones and performance of carvings and etchings at the city cemetery. According to Evans, a city taxpayer, he feels that it is unfair that his taxes are being used to create a new competitor in the market.
"You will make a mistake when you're selling monuments, on a date or a name, or a spelling, and who is going to eat that mistake?" questioned Evans. "In the private sector, we do. Here, it's going to be passed on to city taxpayers. They sent the manager, Ron Regan to a big convention, he spent over $4,000 dollars to go, basically on vacation. It's just another way for the city to waste taxpayer's money, and it's got to stop."
In a letter, City attorney Jim Nugent says the city is not entering the monument business while at the same time defending the City Cemetery goal of "selling monuments," by saying that it would "bring more fiscal responsibility to the cemetery." Evans says the city needs more fiscal responsibility, but that the city is going about it the wrong way.
"We as city taxpayers fund the cemetery over $500,000 a year to run the cemetery because it is run so poorly," Evans said. "They're way overstaffed, and that's a bureaucracy thing from the city. I own Sunset Memorial Garden Cemetery and we do twice as many internments as they do, with a third of the staff that they have."
Evans hopes that the city and private monument companies can resolve this issue before a lawsuit is needed and says that, so far, city council has been responsive to complaints.
In the city's response to the official complaint, City Attorney Jim Nugent writes that "[the Missoula City Cemetery is not starting a monument business but persevering in the service industry. The Missoula City Council has already budgetarily approved the City Cemetery’s performance of these services in order to allow the cemetery to provide this service. Missoula is a self-governing municipality and has all powers not expressly prohibited under Montana Law. There is nothing in Missoula Municipal Code or Montana Law that expressly prohibits the Missoula City Cemetery from performing these service for the public."