As Lewisburg Councilman Ronald McRady read state law and city cemetery rules during his explanation on how controversy arose over graves, people in the audience were, in effect, reading him the Riot Act.
"I'm not setting out here to be roasted," McRady said during his monologue on new cemetery rules while softly spoken words of criticism were heard from the standing-room-only audience that agreed when he added, "I know it looks like a roast."
The first-term councilman is chairman of the Cemetery Board. It recommended new rules on how graves could be decorated and what city employees could do to enforce the standards to permit routine mowing of grass and trimming. Decorations at graves have been removed, including statues of angels.
"I like angels," McRady said.
"You're no angel," murmured a man under his breath from one side of the audience.
Others left the room after councilmen met for more than an hour, only to revisit the issue tonight at 5 in City Hall.
Try as he might to explain new rules are for orderly maintenance of cemeteries, McRady became the councilman addressing the situation. Then, in a reference to other councilmen, he indicated that their quiet reserve without explanations seemed to allow them to "wash your hands clean like Pilate."
As the judge at Jesus' trial, Pontius Pilate reluctantly authorized Jesus' crucifixion. Pilate washed his hands to show he wasn't responsible.
"It doesn't mean these rules are set in stone," Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. said, joining McRady's discussion. "I don't think this council is trying to wash its hands. Nothing has been done that it can't be fixed. All things will heal, given time."
McRady had asked to explain without interruption. He was "assigned" to chair the Cemetery Board. A "rock fence" needed repair. Entrance and exit signs were placed. An unused utility pole was removed. A sign with rules and regulations was inconsistent.
Lax enforcement was addressed. Loose rocks on graves were removed and earth seeded for consistent mowing; all in line with new rules enacted by the council during open, public meetings with advance warnings.
A brochure was written, printed and distributed.
"We're going to get them changed," were the words spoken from a man in the audience.
Now, mowing season has started and relatives of those buried in city cemeteries were told they do not own the plots. They have a certificate of interment rights, not a deed. Property taxes aren't paid on cemetery plots.
"We've got to get back in control of the cemetery," McRady said as another man in the audience said, "No."