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Cemetery funds remain hot topic

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The question of whether the Hartselle Cemetery Board should have control of a perpetual care fund for the upkeep and maintenance of the city cemetery was discussed at length at a meeting between Mayor Dwight Tankersley and board members Monday night.
The meeting was the result of a recommendation from the city's auditor that the cemetery fund should be monitored by the city and included as a part of the audit.
"There's no question these are public funds and they should be reconciled as a part of the city audit," Tankersley said after the meeting. "I'm not questioning the job the cemetery board is doing. If the fund is brought under the city's control, I'd hope the board will continue to give the same level of volunteer effort toward the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery."
The board has voiced concerns about the level of care the cemetery will receive if the city takes control of the money and assumes responsibility for its upkeep.
"We basically manage the day-to-day operations of the cemetery. It doesn't cost the city a penny. We do it out of love for the community," board chairman Blake Tanner said. "If the city takes over, we have asked for a city employee to be assigned with the responsibility of marking off grave sites and taking care of upkeep and maintenance. We also have asked the city not to take away the money and leave us with the responsibility of maintaining the cemetery."
The mayor told us if the city had to assign an employee to the cemetery it would cost about $45,000 a year in salary, benefits and other expenses."
A financial statement provided by the board shows that $7,663 was spent that year for caretaker labor and related expenses. Income from the sale of burial lots was $10,538, leaving a balance of $2,875. Current assets were listed at $4,760 and net worth at $165,507.
Tanner said the cemetery board is empowered by city ordinance to handle money collected from the public for the care of the cemetery.
"Those of us who serve on the board have loved ones buried in the cemetery. We have a personal interest in seeing that it is maintained properly," Tanner stated. "If the city takes over, I'm not comfortable that's always going to be the case."
"I thought the meeting went well," Tankersley said. "We had good, open communication. I want us to work together for what is in the best interest of the cemetery. "I have received a copy of a perpetual care ordinance for the Falkville cemetery, which was written by our city attorney, Larry Madison. I'll study it and get back with the board for a follow-up meeting before the matter is presented to the city council."