Opp’s new lawn contract doesn’t include cemeteries

Published 12:32 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Opp City Council on Monday night awarded its annual contract for lawn care to a local lawn care company, but those looking for the city to mow three private cemeteries will have to wait.

The city received seven bids and Lawn and Ground Pros, owned by Malcolm Tillis, submitted the low bid of $868.75 biweekly.

Other bids included:

  • Crossover Ministries: $1,300 biweekly;
  • Clean Cut Lawn Care, owned by Curtis Fitzpatrick, $1,200 biweekly;
  • Lee’s Lawn Service, owned by David Lee, $1,150 biweekly;
  • Foggy Bottom Lawn Care, $1,250 biweekly;
  • J.B.’s Lawn Service, $1,250 biweekly;
  • Cutting Edge Lawn Solution, owned by Chris Jones, $1,175 biweekly.

City Clerk Connie Smith said Tillis has done work for the city before.

Councilman Gary Strickland asked if he had a business license.

Smith said she would have to check, but he usually has one.

She said that the city usually is lenient on lawn care businesses until April because it is seasonal work.

Mayor Becky Bracke said the contract does not include the Hardin Street Cemetery, Cools Springs Cemetery or Hickory Grove Cemetery.

“I’m working on figuring out how to do it legally,” she said.

In January, residents in Opp asked Bracke and the city council if they could help maintain three cemeteries in the city.

During the previous administration, then-Mayor John Bartholomew and Smith both said they consulted with the state attorney general’s office and it is against the law for the city to cut private cemeteries, as it would be for them to a cut a person’s private yard.

At the January meeting, residents argued that until the Bartholomew administration, the city had always cut the grass.

Bracke promised to check into the legality of it.

According to Star-News archives, Smith provided a 2010 Attorney General opinion in which then-AG Troy King concluded that “maintenance of a church cemetery by a county commission would violate section 94 of article IV of the Recompiled Constitution of Alabama.” Section 94 prohibits spending public funds for private purposes.

Late last year, James Hudson provided information he had received from Rep. Mike Jones’ office.

The memo from Jones’ office, it cites section 94 of the Constitution of Alabama, but states that the courts have held that the prohibition in 94 is not absolute.

Additionally, information from Jones’ office cites Alabama code, “Any incorporated city or town having within its corporate limits an ancient family cemetery or burial ground or owning a cemetery or burial ground may make and enter into a contract with any interested party or parties obligating and binding the city or town to forever protect, maintain and properly care for such cemetery or burial ground or for graves of individuals in the cemeteries or burial grounds owned by such city or town, upon terms and conditions as may be agreed upon and for such compensation as it may see fit to accept.”

Additionally, Jones’ office says that there is a test as part of Section 94 that it would be a direct benefit to general character of the public.