Friday, February 27, 2009

Grand Forks, North Dakota, cemetery group under financial fire

You have to register for free access to the Grand Forks Herald, so here is the full story, from earlier in the week ... the Herald also came down on the cemetery association's side in an editorial, citing the 1970 state Supreme Court decision protecting cemeteries from assessments, and noting, among other things that cemeteries "tend to be shoestring rather than prosperous organizations."
The Grand Forks Cemetery Association asked the City Council to reduce its dike assessments Monday, a decision that could affect assessments for other cemeteries in the city.
The Grand Forks Cemetery Association asked the City Council to reduce its dike assessments Monday, a decision that could affect assessments for other cemeteries in the city.
Cemetery officials appealed the 2001 and 2003 assessments, which association President Gordon Iseminger said was “excessive.” Not only that, he said, a 1970 state Supreme Court ruling said cities can’t special assess nonprofit cemeteries.
City Attorney Howard Swanson said he felt that the ruling was in error and, if the issue were to go to court again, today’s Supreme Court would over turn it.
At this point, the two sides are in a standoff. State law does not allow the city to take possession of a cemetery even if the cemetery did not pay its assessments. If the cemetery doesn’t pay, there’s little the city could do.
Some other cemeteries in Grand Forks also have been delinquent on their assessments. If the city were to decide to grant the Grand Forks Cemetery Association’s appeal, it will have set a precedent for the others. Other property owners in the city would have to bear the burden of the third dike assessment that the cemeteries are not paying.
Council member Curt Kreun said these fees were assessed to everyone else in the city. “We’re all in this together, and we all should pay our fair share.”
If the city decides next week to sue the association to recover the funds, the case could go to the state Supreme Court, according to Swanson.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vandalism update: Versailles, Kentucky

Authorities say they are pursuing several leads in the case of 150 headstones that were toppled at the Versailles Cemetery in Kentucky. They also say they are increasing the reward from $2,000 to $5,000 in the incident, which caused $100,000 in damage.

Oregon cemetery district to offer green burials

Because of increased interest in natural burials, the Estacada Cemetery District is beginning to offer them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vermont seeks to expand cemetery protection

Vermont lawmakers are looking to expand protection of cemeteries and graves from the threat of moving.
Currently, Vermont's burial statute allows a parent, spouse, sibling or
child of the deceased to object to a grave relocation.
The bill would expand the list to include descendants of the dead, local cemetery commissioners, historical societies, veterans groups and cemetery preservation groups such as the Vermont Old Cemetery Association.

Long Island cemetery plan draws environmental concerns

People opposed to a proposed cemetery plan on Long Island worry that embalming fluid (formaldehyde) and heavy metal from caskets could pollute groundwater. Here's an interesting tidbit from the article:
Little research has been done in the United States on cemeteries' potential to pollute groundwater. Experts say conditions vary from site to site. Much depends on soil type, density of graves, and age of the burial ground - in the 19th century, arsenic was used to preserve bodies, a practice since stopped."It's an important issue that has not been solved," said Alison L. Spongberg, a geologist with the University of Toledo who studied water quality at four Ohio burial grounds. "A graveyard is nothing more than another type of landfill ... Of course they have to affect the groundwater if you put too many in one spot."

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Dead Space Project

Here's a link to a research project on a New Orleans cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, by the University of Pennsylvania. I'm also putting a link among the other research sites off to the side of this blog.

South Dakota town mulls OK for green cemetery

The town of Mitchell, South Dakota, responding to changes in public sentiment, is reviewing changes to its laws to allow green burial.

Oregon cemetery may go private

The public cemetery for Klamath Falls may be sold to private interests, according to this report. The report says the city pays $150,000 annually in maintenance costs and is soliciting bids. Only interest from the $400,000 perpetual-care trust can be spent on maintenance; the principal must be untouched until the cemetery is filled.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Historic Florida cemetery to be rededicated

The Hickory Hill cemetery in the Tallahasse area, which dates back to the post-Civil War era, is being rededicated after a 15-year effort to clean it up

Colorado cemeteries 'fight for life'

Two cemeteries in the Pikes Peak area are struggling financially, so Colorado Springs is soliciting bids for potential private partners to help keep them operating.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New York cemetery seeks help in paying bills

Calvary Cemetery in Johnson City, NY, is asking for government help in paying its water and sewer bill

More vandalism: Kentucky, South Carolina

Here are some more links to the Versailles Cemetery vandalism, in which about 150 headstones were knocked over:
The Herald-Leader
WZTV, a Fox affiliate

And here is a smaller incident from Seneca, South Carolina:

One reminder: I mean no disrespect to those incidents that don't make this blog. I take all vandalism incidents seriously, but sometimes I just cannot get them all listed here. Each of these crimes takes away valuable law-enforcement, judicial and community activity resources, not good in these economically challenging times.

Plans for veterans cemetery scrapped in Alaska

Some lawmakers are upset that Gov. Sarah Palin's 2010 budget plan scraps plans for a veterans cemetery in Alaska. Here's a second report on the same subject. The state needed to commit $750,000 ($250,000 over each of the next three years) in order for the federal government to contribute the other 90 percent of the funds for the project

New cemetery planned for Las Vegas

The Clark County Commission has given an OK to build a new cemetery in Las Vegas. Here is another TV report on the matter. Here's our link to an earlier report on this.

CNN's take on Spain's solar cemetery

Here's a piece from CNN on the cemetery in Spain filled with solar panels that was featured at this blog before. Those who get CNN International on TV can tune in for a report on Monday, Feb. 23.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Indiana cemetery in disrepair

The Warnock Cemetery in Princeton, Indiana, is suffering from weather damage, possible vandalism and some general disrepair. But work is under way to fix it up.

Feature on slave cemetery Arkansas

In honor of Black History Month, this feature talks about Grisso Cemetery in Fulton County, Arkansas.

Texas man to be honored for cemetery care

Henry Martinez, 80, of Dallas will be honored for his efforts to care for Trinity Portland Cemetery for more than 40 years. Many early Mexican Americans are buried there.

Cleanup at black cemetery in Texas

Cleanup is continuing at the Hendrick Arnold-Bertha Tryon Cemetery in Bandera, Texas. Work began around 2004 after officials determined the primary site was delinquent on taxes. Adjacent parcels were turned over to the county/cemetery organization, so that cleanup could begin. To volunteer for the project, call Bandera County Historical Commission member Carl Holt at 830-796-9799.

Proposed land swap on Long Island sparks protests

A dispute has erupted between the Friends of Westhampton Cemetery and the local trustees. The cemetery association wants to acquire a parcel of land adjacent to the cemetery in a swap for another parcel, a move opposed by trustees (for fears of water pollution at a nearby lake from pesticide runoff) and residents. There are a couple of reports: Newsday and 27East.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vandalism: $100,000 in damage in Georgia; 150 headstones toppled in Kentucky

A historic cemtery in Coweta County, Ga., with graves dating to the 1800s, was vandalized to the tune of $100,000, authorities say.
Investigator Elaine Jordan said authorities found an estimated 50 graves,
about one-third of [Tranquil Cemetery], desecrated.

In Woodford County, Kentucky, about 150 headstones were knocked over at
the Versailles Cemetery.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cemeteries and drought

Came across this article on the Chicora Foundation Web site; Chicora is a heritage foundation based in Columbia, South Carolina.

National Preservation Institute: Seminar on Cemetery Preservation

Here's the link to a notice about a seminar scheduled for September 15-16 in South Bend, Indiana.

Bibb County, Ga., green cemetery report: NACO

The National Association of Counties has a report on its Web site discussing the dispute over the green cemetery plan that has been stalled by the county commissioners.

More on Freetown, Fall River, Mass., cemetery

Here's another piece discussing the disputed Mother's Brook Cemetery, which once suffered from neglect and now is under dispute as to what body should care for it.

New York town strives to save old cemeteries

Efforts are under way in the Bedford, N.Y., area to restore many old cemeteries, some of which date to Colonial times. When you get to this link, note the video clip, and a long list of cemeteries.

Western Michigan expansion plans hit a snag

Residents expressing concerns about cutting trees and disturbing a natural dune area have raised objections to adding 1,500 plots to Lake Forest Cemetery in Grand Haven. Other residents are worried about the impact on property values.

Environmental protection for cemeteries

In an opinion piece from the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, Dianne Bady, co-director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, writes that efforts should be taken to protect family cemeteries from coal dust. She writes:
... as a consequence of the mad rush to blow up mountains and dump them into
valleys to get the coal out as quickly as possible, family cemeteries all over
the coalfields are disappearing and many more are now being threatened.

Michigan town updating cemetery ordinance

Because of vandalism and trespassing, Tecumseh, Michigan, is updating the ordinance regulating hours and use of the Brookside Cemetery. Officials fear further problems once a new high school athletic complex opens nearby.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New book depicts Mississippi cemeteries

A local historian has written about about Jackson County cemeteries.

Work begins on cemetery damaged by Katrina, Rita

Work is under way to repair a Civil War era cemetery in New Orleans that was damaged by the Katrina and Rita storm surges.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Updates: School construction at slave cemetery site in North Carolina

Here are another couple of links about a proposal to build a school over what some say is a former slave cemetery, from the NBC affiliate and the Raleigh News & Observer, the latter of which includes news that a citizens advisory board is backing a rezoning effort to make it easier for the school to be built. It also says that cemetery preservationists are critical of the work done by a consultant that examining the site, and that they also think Native Americans are buried there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Embezzlers leave cemetery lacking?

This is a complicated story about how previous cemetery owners in Mississippi sold pre-need contracts for "quick cash," leaving customers empty-handed. A lawsuit has been filed to the cemetery into receivership, so that local owners could eventually assume control.

Abandoned cemeteries draw concerns in Pennsylvania

Residents in Clearfield County, Pa., are raising concerns about the state of abandoned cemeteries.

School to be built on slave cemetery?

A few reports out of North Carolina indicate that some people fear that a proposed school in Wake County would be built on what was a slave cemetery. Here are a few of those reports: from the Raleigh News & Observer, the CBS affiliate, WNCT, and the ABC affiliate, WTVD

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bucks County, Pa., zoning/cemetery dispute

When officials in Bucks County, Pa., reached agreement to establish a veterans cemetery in the vicinity of Washington Crossing National Park, area municipalities agreed to a Federal Cemetery Overlay ordinance, which essentially allows for higher density in order to preserve more open space for the cemetery. According to this report, some Newtown Township think the town prematurely closed the appeal process, once the main opposition reached agreement in a land deal that secured the parcels needed for the vet cemetery.

Pontiac, Michigan, eyes cemetery sale

Officials in Pontiac say they have a buyer for two cemeteries, Ottawa Park and Oak Hill. StoneMor Partners, of Levittown, Pa., is offering $475,000. The company owns more than 200 cemeteries across the country.
While residents and history buffs want the town to hold on to these historic site, the town is $6 million in the red and says it costs $300,000 to $400,000 a year in maintenance costs.

PCBs found in drums unearthed in Connecticut cemetery

A breaking news item from the Connecticut Post reports that drums unearthed at St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Cemetery in Monroe last year contain PCBs. These carcinogens - polychlorinated biphenyls once used in transformers and hydraulic fluids - have leached into the ground, according to an EPA analysis. The Post reports that the site previously was a private airport, but authorities say that it is unknown where the drums came from and who owned them.

Texas town seeks bids to maintain local cemeteries

Greenville, Texas, has solicited bids to take care of its East Mount and Forest Park cemeteries, and the town council is expected to act on a recommendation Tuesday. The current budget includes $110,000 for the work, which is being done by the Parks and Recreation Commission. The 2007-08 budget included double that amount. Here's what will be considered at the local council meeting:
Parks and Recreation Director Colby VanGundy is recommending the Council
award the bid to Crew Cut Lawn Care [of Greenville] for $74,400 for the next year, with a 3 to 5 percent increase per year for two additional years.

Request for information: Financially struggling cemeteries

To my readers,
I'm beginning to research the effects of the downturned economy on cemeteries. So far, I have some anecdotal information trickling in about the fact that it seems more and more towns are being asked (forced?) to take over the operation of financially struggling cemeteries. If nothing else, this defers tight government funds from other activities and programs.
If anyone here has some leads on where I might turn next, feel free to either comment at the blog or respond privately, using the e-mail provided.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Transfer dispute in Fall River, Massachusetts

There is a dispute about transferring an old cemetery, Mother's Brook Cemetery, from Freetown to Fall River, Massachusetts, because town officials from both communities are uncertain about bearing maintenance costs.

Addendum, Feb. 9: Thanks to the diligence of one of the readers to the original article, here is an earlier article detailing the work of an Eagle scout to clean the place up, and reviving a debate about whose cemeterie this actually is. And according to the reader, the dispute dates to 1905.

More on Nantucket Quaker cemetery

The Boston Herald is reporting on the discovery of Quaker graves on Nantucket Island, where workers were excavating land to install a bike path.

Topeka, Kansas, cemetery celebrates 150 years

The historic Topeka Cemetery is the final resting place of some of Kansas' most famous citizens.

Snowmobilers taking over Flint, Michigan, cemetery

Residents in Flint, Michigan, are upset that snowmobilers are damaging Flint City Cemetery.

Dispute among neighbors in Marin County, Calif.

This opinion piece in the Marin (California) Independent Journal discusses the dispute between residents and operators of Valley Memorial Park, who want to build more mausoleum space.

New green cemetery opening in Washington state

A new natural cemetery, called the Meadow, will open in Washington state this week. According to this article, Washington will have two of the 11 so-called certified natural cemeteries in the country.

O'Hare Airport expansion update

The Aero-News Network offers an update on the plans to remove graves in the area where authorities would like to expand Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The latest news is that family members of those buried there are petitioning the court to halt expansion plans. Here's a not-so-updated Web site about the controversy. Here's someone else's postings about the subject. And this Chicago Tribune article from late January offers some details about the overall expansion effort.

Utah cemetery running low on available graves

The city cemetery in the town of American Fork has only about 75 available graves remaining. No word here on whether the town is considering expansion; the small report says only that officials ask would-be clients to sort out ownership issues before it's too late.