- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Fairbanks is replacing its longtime groundskeeper of the city’s oldest cemetery with employees from the Public Works Department after a disputed bidding process.

Starting this summer, the city will take over the groundskeeping duties at the 2-acre Clay Street Cemetery, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://bit.ly/1YTNH5l).

The decision to replace Frank Turney, who has worked and provided tours at the cemetery for 16 years, comes after the city put the summertime work out to bid.

Hannah Monzingo, the owner of the new business Monzingo Mowing, had been informed by the city via email on May 6 that she would be awarded the contract after submitting a bid for $5,500, which was $100 less than the city paid Turney for the work last year.

However, she then received an email a week later saying her work would not be needed because Public Works was going to take care of the cemetery this summer.

Fairbanks Chief of Staff Jeff Jacobson said the city decided to use its own employees for the job after “significant concerns” were raised during an internal review.

“To make a long story short, we had some internal issues and as a result, we canceled the award of the bid,” Jacobson said.

The city will fulfill the same requirements outlined in the contract, which include reseeding and fertilizing the grass as well as weekly mowing and grass trimming along the tombstones and fences, Jacobson said. He added that the city may not live up to the expectations set by Turner during his time as the city’s groundskeeper.

“I know that for the last 16 years, Frank (Turney) has been a very dedicated advocate for the cemetery, so I think he goes above and beyond and probably performs a higher level of service than is required by the contract,” Jacobson said.

Turney had accused city staff at a City Council meeting on May 9 of encouraging Monzingo to bid just under the $5,600 he was paid for the job in the summer of 2015, but he maintained that he would help Monzingo with the work.

“I just cannot fathom somebody coming out here with a lower bid and taking over my job. To me, it’s my bread and butter in the summer time. I think there was lot of underhanding going on,” Turney said. “But at the same time, I’m willing to help this lady with some of the ups and downs of Clay Street Cemetery.”

Turney said he now plans to fight the city’s decision to have its employees handle the cemetery work and ask for Monzingo to have the job.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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