Thursday, February 25, 2010
Mayor pushes fee hike for cemetery
By SUE WATSON
One of the hottest issues in the current administration in Holly Springs remains the upkeep, restoration and access to Hill Crest Cemetery.
The city’s buildings and grounds director, Larry Miller, proposed increases in plot fees and burial fees last week, saying the fees have not kept pace with those in neighboring areas like Oxford, Byhalia, Cottrell Memorial Garden (Holly Springs), Batesville and Pontotoc.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said reasonable fees should be charged for feasible services.
The proposed new fee structure as compared to the old structure is as follows:
• 40 square foot single grave is $250. The new fee would be $400.
• two graves for $500 would increase to $800.
• four graves or 160 square feet for $750 would be $1,400.
• eight grave block for $1,500 would go to $2,800.
• opening and closing a grave on weekdays would go from $200 to $300. Weekend rates would go from $250 to $350. Holidays would go from $350 to $450.
Alderman Garrie Colhoun asked DeBerry for time to study the new fee structure before the matter is brought before the board for a vote.
DeBerry discussed maintenance costs at Hill Crest and said people have been buying the lots up in bulk because of the cheap price. He said it takes building and grounds a week to cut the graveyard because tombstones are raised rather than flat and at ground level. Weedeating around stones is time-consuming and costly, he said.
“I have no problem raising prices because the cost of gasoline has gone up since 1994 (when fees were last increased),” alderman Harvey Payne said.
With that discussion the board voted to freeze the advanced sale of plots until a decision on the price of lots has been made.
Bobby Bonds asked when the front gate at Hill Crest would be repaired so it can be used.
The mayor discussed probable cause of the damage to the gate and stone columns - vault trucks, he thinks.
Then the board rehashed prior discussions including the narrow width of all the entrance gates and drives except the one at Maury Street.
DeBerry suggested there could be a change in design at the entry at Maury Street and a parking area for vehicles could be built. Visitors could park and walk or the city could provide golf cart type service for a fee for those unable to walk to the site they wish to visit, he said.
Funeral processions would be allowed to drive through to the burial site, he proposed.
He opposes drive-through except for those who are visiting graves of relatives, he said, adding that people hit the wrought iron fences and gates with their vehicles then want to sue the city for damages.
“We need to look at a designed way to get people through from the driving perspective,” he said.
Colhoun said he has visited many old cemeteries such as the Hollywood Cemetery built back in the late 1700s.
“They are all one-way but you can drive through,” he said.
DeBerry said he was talking about ushering in the family of the deceased at funerals but restricting drive-through traffic otherwise.
“Other than that (funerals), why do you need total access (by car)?” he said.
Colhoun said for people to not be allowed to drive through is “absurd.”
“Make it one-way traffic flow,” he said.
DeBerry restated his idea to bring people to a holding area rather than allowing drive-through.
“The respect we have in the cemetery is for the inhabitants,” he said. “My coming to the cemetery does not make it sacred. I think we can channel people in and out. A cart for the elderly or handicapped would be better. We are capable of walking ourselves.”
“We are going to have to look at a lengthy time (to study),” Colhoun said.
“Sacred, yes. Revered, yes. But we have to look at it from common sense - how to move tourists through there,” DeBerry said. “I think a golf cart would be pleasing. The purpose of the golf cart is to accommodate the impaired. We are not required to give total access but opportunity for access.”
He said the streets are about 10 feet wide in the cemetery whereas standard street width is 24 feet.
“I am really opposed to shutting that thing down,” said Colhoun. “You got folks who go to see their loved ones every day. Are you going to tell them ‘you can’t drive in here?’ ”
Payne suggested offering a golf cart to everyone who wants to use one.
“To ride or to drive?” asked DeBerry.
“For those who like to come, let them park and charge a fee,” Payne said.
“If that many people were coming through we need a driver,” DeBerry said.
The remainder of the meeting was spent approving claims, travel for aldermen to attend a fire academy course, and discussing vandalism of a fence and light fixtures at Spring Hollow Walking Park.
Public works director Don Hollingsworth presented quotes for security equipment at the utility department and for roofing repair at the building.
A TVA increase in utility rates due to a fuel cost increase will begin on March 1, Hollingsworth said. The adjustment is an increase is 0.4 percent. General residential customers will pay about $3.40 more a month for electricity while average commercial customers will see an increase of about $3.50, he said.
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