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Council votes to lift cemetery limits

Friday, March 25, 2011

On a 3-2 vote Wednesday, Lewisburg councilmen decided to delete prohibitions against outlining graves in the city's eight cemeteries - a decision reached with a standing-room-only crowd staring down elected leaders.

Surviving relatives of some people buried in city cemeteries have placed brick pavers, boards, garden edging, concrete curbs, rock and other outlines over their loved one's graves. That's interfered with maintenance, as have mementoes and other objects.

Councilman Robin Minor proposed changes to an ordinance championed by Councilman Ronald McRady, chairman of the Cemetery Board. Until the amendment is enacted on a third successful vote, prohibitions remain in effect.

A long public hearing conducted one week ago tonight revealed hurt feelings among survivors of those buried in city cemeteries, most notably Lone Oak Cemetery where this week mowers moved quickly between graves since mementoes were removed and made available at the city garage on North Fifth Avenue.

At issue is an ordinance stating those who purchase graves in Lewisburg cemeteries have "the right to use the lot for burial interment only." Ownership rests with the city. State law says cemetery owners shall maintain them "so as to reflect the memory of the dead in keeping with the reasonable sensibilities of survivors..."

Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart spoke up for the sensibilities of all survivors, explaining city residents contacting her in support of some regularity of maintenance outnumbered those who opposed limitations on decorations.

However, Minor responded to residents who feel adversely affected by what's become known as Item 7.

"No outline of grave sites such as decorative rocks, mulch, mini nuggets, solar lights, etc. and the decoration of wildlife [figurines] and such shall not be permitted with the exception of the American Flag and/or State Flag which will still be permitted," Item 7 states.

That prohibition is to be deleted from the ordinance upon a third and final vote by the council. A second vote is anticipated on April 12 when the council meets for its regularly scheduled monthly session at 6 p.m. Prior to that, a public hearing is to begin at 5:50 p.m., the traditionally scheduled time for hearings on ordinances up for a second vote.

If the ordinance is adopted in accordance with the regular schedule of meetings, the final vote would be on May 10, two days after Mother's Day, the traditional time for cemetery decoration day in Lewisburg when veterans place American flags at the graves of their fallen comrades. That schedule would mean the prohibitions would still be in effect on May 8, Mother's Day.

With nearly 75 people in the City Hall audience Wednesday evening, it was clear the overwhelming majority oppose the rule prohibiting decoration of graves with outlines and various objects that could result in delay to, or damage of, mowers.

The sentiment, however, was just the opposite on Thursday morning when Mayor Barbara Woods received phone calls at City Hall from survivors of those interred at city cemeteries.

"Every phone call I've gotten this morning has been from people who are adamantly against the change of the rules," Woods said. "They like it the way it is" with restrictions against what some have called "trinkets" hung on tombstones or shepherds' crooks pushed into the ground near headstones.

"One said she didn't feel like with that crowd she would be able to state her opinion" at this week's meeting, or even the public hearing scheduled for April 12, the mayor said.

While it's clear there was a majority of people speaking against the restrictions on March 18 when rules were suspended to hear the public's view, Woods said, "The other side needs an opportunity to speak."

Wednesday night's special-called meeting did not include comments from the public.

"This is a good ordinance," McRady said, asking councilmen to refrain from changing it.

Minor again announced that he made a mistake by voting for it when it was enacted on June 8, 2010.

As for councilmen taking stands for equal treatment, some saw differences in the way grave outlines were removed with wood and brick pavers being taken away while concrete or stone were left alone. McRady defended the decision to leave the concrete curbs and granite, saying they're historic.

During Friday's meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the amendment that would remove Item 7.

Wednesday, Councilmen Hershel Davis, Odie Whitehead Jr. and Minor voted to resume discussion of the amendment. McRady and Stewart voted no.

The count on the amendment's first vote was also 3-2 with Davis, Minor and Whitehead voting yes and McRady and Stewart voting no.


Comments
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I have lived in Lewisburg, TN for the 46 years of my life. I have several family members and friends buried in Lone Oak Cemetery. I have been to many cemeteries in my life time and none are as beautiful as Lone Oak. I have even brought friends from other counties and states to the cemetery and every one of them have commented on how beautiful it is especially in the spring. Heck, some of them still come at this particular time of year just to see the cemetery. We even have people who go and walk the cemetery instead of going to a walking trail or gym. And why? Because it's just a beautiful, peaceful place. I do realize that the cemetery is hard to take care of during the summer months, BUT, this cemetery has been there far beyond my years of life and has always been the way it is. Different monuments, flowers, flags, grave markings, etc., which adds to the very exquisit beauty of the cemetery. I do agree that some are over done, but you have to understand that people are different and have different ways of mourning and remembering their loved ones. As for the mowing situation, we have county and city inmates that probably do nothing all day long. During the spring and summer months how about putting a weedeater or push mower in their hands and let them work for a change. There are probably enough of them that they could be out there everyday taking care of the cemetary and maybe they would look at some of those graves and think this could be me if I don't change! I just feel that taking away things that made this cemetery one of the most beautiful in the state, is a mistake. We do not want the most drab one around. I agree that alot of trinkets, and stuff sitting around is not good, but a shepards hook or a small flag hook put in the ground as close to the rock or even attached to it is ok. And in my opinion, the people that want to see it changed, then buy your plots at Marshall Memorial Gardens or Sunset Park. Lone Oak is beautiful, LEAVE IT ALONE!

-- Posted by thargrov on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 2:28 PM

Thank you. I couldn't have said it any better. I had a plaque on my father's grave wired to the vase where it would not fall off. Now how does that hinder mowing?

-- Posted by mlentz on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 5:25 PM

It does not hinder anything! This goes back to what I was saying. People are different and they mourn or remember their loved ones in different ways. I'm sure that made you feel comforted to have that plaque there, that in some small way you was telling your father you love him. And that is not even on the ground AT ALL! Again this beautiful cemetery has been that way for years! And people want to be buried there because it is a beautiful place. They are making this way too hard. Ok...so they don't want flowers and things stuck in the ground, but something attached to the headstone...that is private property. You know for many many years, folks have wanted to be buried there because of the way the cemetery is...beautiful and peaceful. I think we, as a city, should want to keep our final resting place, a place where family members can go and still tend to their loved ones and be free to do so.

-- Posted by thargrov on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 7:25 PM

My mother is buried at Lone Oak that used to be the most beautiful cemetary in Lewisburg.All of my Mothers stuff was removed she had nothing on the ground that bothered any mowingproblems everything was all on her rock decorated very pretty.I think the City Council has disrespected the dead.When I put her stuff on there it was put there with LOVE.When I went to pick it up most of it had been broken.Are we even going to get to have decoration on Mothers Day.I am saddened by this and all the other cemetarys that were done this way.Why did this happen.

-- Posted by mymoma on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 7:34 PM

ON MOTHERS DAY can we decorate our loved ones grave and remove them when we leave.The next meeting will not be until after MOTHERS DAY? I see no problem with it as long as we take them off when we leave would someone let me know what they think please.......

-- Posted by mymoma on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 8:38 PM


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