Cemetery office to remain in garage

October 27, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

The cemetery office will remain in the public works garage on Second Street, despite an attempt by Commissioner Chester Kavanaugh to have the City Commission pledge to put it back in Bellevue Cemetery.

In a rare vote, commissioners Jamey Gay and Terry Crowley sided with Mayor John W.D. Bowling and said they don't want to make a decision about the building until all the cemetery operations are reviewed by city staff.

"I want the office to remain at Bellevue," Kavanaugh said. "I am ready to vote ..."

"This is premature," Crowley said.

The office was moved after a city consultant said that it was unsafe.

Stith Funeral Home Director Mary Stith-Hamlin brought a contractor to look at the building, and told commissioners that he said the building could use some posts, but was not unsafe.

Hamlin said that people continually have problems finding the cemetery office and that it is sometimes difficult to locate graves families purchase before a funeral.


She said that the city used to have a trust fund for care, but that more than a decade ago the money was put into the general fund.

Hamlin has expressed frustration that the commissioners told her to talk to the cemetery committee about the building, and that the cemetery committee told her she would have to talk to the commissioners.

"I would like to hear from you today, before the election, how you feel about the cemeteries," Hamlin said.

Owens and Kavanaugh said they thought the office should be at Bellevue.

Gay said that there are too many unanswered questions. He said that there are other options besides a staffed office, like a computerized database of records that could be given to the funeral homes and a computer kiosk at the cemeteries to show visitors where sites are located and information about the deceased. Later, he said the city needs to consider buying land for another cemetery because both Bellevue and Hilldale are running out of gravesites.

Crowley said that he would probably favor an office at the cemetery, but that he felt that the entire operation needs to be researched first.

"We need information," he said.

City Manager studying the situation

City Manager Darrell Blenniss has begun interviews with city staff to find out how the cemetery operates, its record-keeping, burial and landscape. He said he would speed up the study if the commissioners would give him a date. They didn't.

"The grass looks great," Kavanaugh said, alluding to the city's recent hiring of a private company to do landscaping at the grounds. "But when you look at the building sitting empty, it does it no justice."

Resident Lucy Kirkpatrick asked if signatures on a petition would make a difference.

"I know you need to study it," she said. But, "when it comes down to it, we need an office."

Hamlin said the next time she finds herself out in the cemetery with five books and a map trying to find a gravesite, she will call the commissioners to help.

Bowling asked if she would start with the youngest one first.

Gay said that if the records were computerized she could have them at her funeral home.

"Our goal is get the information from the books into this much space," he said, holding a stack of napkins out to Hamlin.

Hamlin said that it would be difficult because there are already mistakes in the records from when they were copied into books by hand.

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