City stops work on steps

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The city has stopped work on a historic set of stairs in Cedar Hill Cemetery after several citizens — and at least one City Council member — expressed concern about the project.

Lee Hart, a Tom Smith Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans member who works on restoration projects in Cedar Hill and other historic cemeteries, was among those who raised the alarm.

“This is an important thing,” he said. “You’ve got to start right to end right.”

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The stairs, which Hart believes were originally built around 1903, have been crumbling for decades and were roped off several years ago due to safety concerns.

A’more Enterprises was the contractor doing the work at a cost of $19,920, according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink. The company submitted the lowest of three proposals for the project, according to documents provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Klink said no plans or designs were established; the companies simply submitted a scope of work.

Last week, the old steps and sidewalls had been demolished and disposed of, and workers appeared ready to pour concrete when Hart began raising the alarm. He said the left side of the stairway was well out of plumb and that he did not believe the original concrete pillars, some of which are leaning, would support the concrete sidewalls being poured.

City Councilman Don Goldberg went to the cemetery last week after being contacted by a concerned citizen.

“It was pointed out to me that the foundation wasn’t being prepared properly,” he said. “I asked the city to be careful and make sure it was being properly done.”

Goldberg said the repair should be done in a manner that will help the steps last longer.

“I was concerned with making sure it was done properly and that it would last,” he said.

Klink said last week that the city will get a construction design from a registered professional before work on the steps continues.

“We will get new price quotes based on the design so everyone is quoting based on a prescribed design,” Klink stated in an email.

She said the existing contractor will not be precluded from re-quoting based on the revised scope of work. She added later: “We don’t know if we’ll have to pay A’more Enterprises for work already completed, which is mainly demolition, because they may be selected to complete the work once the plans are complete. If they are the low bidder when the new plans are bid on, then they’ll simply continue on with the work.”

Grace Bascetta, president of A’more Commercial Enterprises, said the company hopes to work on the project again soon.

“Somebody that worked for the city went there, and they decided probably they needed to have an engineer look at it, because they don’t want any future problems if there’s something not done the way an engineer would want it done,” Bascetta said. “You don’t want to have a problem and then they’d come back and say, ‘You should have had an engineer.’”

Emails among Bascetta and city employees Cindy Norfleet and Sheril Davenport show the contractor was asked in late July to have the project done before Labor Day or wait until after the holiday.

“The cemetery needs to look its best for Labor Day,” Norfleet, a senior buyer in the purchasing division, wrote in an email to Bascetta on July 20. “That’s when a lot of people visit the cemetery and leave flowers.” She copied Davenport, cemetery superintendent with the Department of Parks and Recreation, on the email.

Bascetta replied that the company planned to start work in the first week of August and would be done for Labor Day.

Hart said he is pleased with the way things stand now.

“I’m just tickled to death that it didn’t go forward, because we would have had a huge mess that probably would have had to be torn out again,” he said.