The Santa Maria Cemetery District is exploring contracting out its ground and burial services.
Current SEIU Local 620 union workers could be swapped out this June and some workers are in fear of losing their job.
There are four maintenance workers at the cemetery, some of whom have been working on the headstones for more than 20 years. However, the Santa Maria Cemetery District Board of Trustees says because their contract is up this summer and they are dealing with taxpayer money, they are looking for the best operating cost.
"It’s very emotionally gripping work," said Darryl Scheck, SEIU Local 620. "It’s something that our members are very experienced with and can provide the respect and dignity that’s required under the job."
A union rep says the potential change in service would affect burials, disinterments, maintenance and setting of headstones.
Scheck described the work his current members perform as, "digging the plots, digging the burial sites, actually placing caskets in graves, remains stacked on top of each other, it’s very delicate work."
Kathy Hight, a Santa Maria resident has been visiting the cemetery for many years.
"I’ve lived here forever, and my mom and dad are buried here so I come at least maybe three or four times a year," she said.
Hight says even through a drought, the cemetery has been kept up.
"Pretty much every funeral I’ve been to they are very respectful," she said. "It’s just peaceful and calm."
Lee Diaz, of the Santa Maria Cemetery District Board of Trustees, released this statement:
"The Santa Maria Cemetery District Trustees are currently reviewing a proposal by a private contractor to do landscaping duties along with funeral services. These duties are currently being done by cemetery employees working under a union contract that expires June 30, 2018. In accordance with the responsibilities to compare and evaluate operating costs and provide the best services to the public the trustees look at other options when the union contract expires.
The current operating costs total approximately $671,832. These costs include the labor and benefits for the four cemetery workers; outside contractors; and other equipment related costs. It should be noted that one of the outside contractors, is JD Humann, whose share of the total is $198,000. The contractor who submitted the only proposal is JD Humann and his bid was $635,274.
The district is currently negotiating with the union and no decision has been made on the final selection for maintaining the cemetery. A decision will be made once the negotiations are completed with the union and then the trustees can compare costs and services by the union employees and the private contractor’s proposal."
The board of trustees will revisit the proposal during its next meeting on April 9.