Various tombstones have been chipped by sloppy mowing procedures, Talley said, and several even were broken and lying flat.
"Commissioner (Terry) Crowley, your father is buried there, and close to my parents, and we even cleaned off his grave," Talley said. "He was a good man, and he deserved better. They all do."
Karen Taylor said she was shocked to see the gravesite of her aunt, Edna McGuffey, on the front of Monday's Advocate. She told the commission that her family has called city hall before about the piles of dirt and how McGuffey's site hadn't been properly covered three weeks after the funeral.
"She should've been laid to rest with respect," Taylor said. "I wouldn't have been here if the picture hadn't been in the paper, but since I saw that I figured now is my time. You all need to do something, that's all there is to it."
City Manager Paul Stansbury along with Mayor Coomer apologized to family members, acknowledging that the problem had gotten out of hand. Stansbury said the staff has a meeting planned with the cemetery committee and has scheduled a walk-through in March with the contractor.
Engineer Earl Coffey offered apologies, too, and said the city recognizes it's behind on work.
"We measured 20 inches of rain from December to February ...," Coffey explained, saying that when the ground is so wet, damage can be caused to other graves during burials. He said some cemeteries are more organized and methodical, and in some cases the city needs to realize hand-digging is in order.
"The back gate does need to be repaired, and we may need some Class D (inmate) input to help on this. Cemeteries are not forgotten ... it has been a rough year," Coffey said.
Taylor said she is tired of talk. She understands, she said, the issues with weather but asked when something will be done, as opposed to talked about.
"My family is ready. We got shovels and are ready to go. You all just need to let us know when, and we'll be there," Taylor said to a round of applause.
Conditions precede the current rainy season
Several other residents spoke and said Bellevue has been in bad shape since before the rainy season. Many also said family members from out of town were unable to find anyone to help them find graves during weekend visits because no one is on hand at city hall or the cemetery.
Ruth Ryan read a letter she said was dated Feb. 20, 2007, from a commissioner that said the graves at Bellevue would be re-inspected and brought up to speed in seven to 10 days.
"What concerns me is that it looks like someone's been buried in the wild west out there," Ryan said.
Commissioner Janet Hamner said, "It seems like something on the interior, the supervision, is not right."
Mimi Becker, chairwoman of the cemetery committee, said problems have been pointed out before to the mayor and others.
"I'm not trying to pass the buck, but this is nothing new. We're doing what we can, but have no authority over who's paid to take care of it," Becker said.
She said artificial flowers are and always have been a huge problem at the grounds, since they are not biodegradable and only blow around in the wind, creating trash.
"It's a real trashy problem," Becker said.
She said she wants everyone to remember that the town has two cemeteries.
"I can tell you that I'd take Hilldale over Bellevue any day," Jackie Sims said.
"There's been bad weather, yes," said Mary Stith Hamlin, owner of Stith Funeral Home. "But Hilldale has not been affected like this. Go figure."
A lengthy discussion also was held about whether or not Hamlin could be provided with a copy of burial sites and names in order to direct families to the sites they are looking for. Hamlin said it should be a simple process to print out an Excel spreadsheet, but concerns about confidentiality were brought up.
"It just has their name, section, lot and grave number," Hamlin said. "I already do it every weekend anyway since there's no crew on hand to help people."