City staring at cemetery issue

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Among decorations removed from city cemeteries are these statues available for retrieval at the city garage.

A standing-room-only audience confronted city councilmen Friday, criticizing new cemetery regulations on how graves may be decorated, and they're to be readdressed tonight in City Hall.

Councilman Robin Minor's compromise for new rules is set for discussion during a non-voting workshop at 5 p.m., followed by a special voting session, as called Friday on a 3-2 vote.

Councilmen Ronald McRady, Quinn Stewart and Hershel Davis voted yes. Voting no were Councilmen Robin Minor and Odie Whitehead Jr. They apparently wanted a decision made last week.

Council rules were suspended Friday so residents could be heard during an expanded public comment period when survivors with loved ones interred in city cemeteries complained about removal of statuary, religious icons, "trinkets," as described by some, and memorabilia significant to the dead.

Minor's proposed amendment was offered to change "Rule No. 7" in a brochure drafted by the Cemetery Board, led by McRady who sought to bring some regularity to gravesites for more efficient mowing and general maintenance of the cemetery.

Such public attention comes nearly two months before Mother's Day. It's also known as Decoration Day in Lewisburg when peonies are frequently seen as the flower of choice for placement at graves, according to discussion among city residents.

It's also a weekend when military veterans place American flags at the graves of fallen comrades, according to Marshall County Historical Society Vice President Linda Potts.

But in recent weeks, enforcement of new cemetery guidelines included removal of, for example, brick pavers outlining a grave covered with crushed white stones. Such embellishments have caused mowers to either stop, or slow their duties.

A wood frame around a grave was also removed, but marble, granite, poured concrete or other expensive monuments added by survivors have not been removed, according to explanations from city officials.

Andy Henson of Belfast Avenue brought the issue to the attention of councilmen during their March 8 meeting when Friday's session was scheduled.

"Treat them all the same," Henson told councilmen.

In addition to Lone Oak Cemetery, the city has Boyette, Cook Memorial, Hardin, Mt. Carmel, Reed, Talley and Whorley cemeteries to maintain and grass to mow along greenways, roads, in parks and around buildings.

Without federal stimulus funded workers, the city used county jail inmate labor to remove decorations at graves and records of a number of the objects were either incomplete or just inaccurate, causing delay in recovery of icons, flowers, decorations and memorabilia from the city garage.