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Cemetery upkeep changes hands

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The upkeep and maintenance of the city cemetery is now a function of Hartselle's city government and a responsibility of the Parks &Recreation Department, according to Mayor Dwight Tankersley.
Previously, Hartselle Cemetery Committee handled the responsibility with the help of a paid caretaker. He was paid so much a month from funds collected from the sale of cemetery lots and mowed grass, sprayed for harmful insects and weeds and picked up litter on an as-needed basis.
"He was there nearly every day to check on things and do what needed to be done," said Blake Tanner, committee chairman. "And, on occasions when we didn't have a caretaker, we would do the work ourselves."
"We're mowing there now for the third time," said P&R director Frank Miller on Aug. 10. "The first time we did it we used four mowers and four operators and it took over 40 man hours. The second time around we got it done in about 30 hours. Our plan is to mow once a week."
The changeover was put in motion several weeks ago after the city's auditor suggested that cemetery funds should be supervised by the city clerk/treasurer and made a part of the annual audit.
"We needed to take over the maintenance of the cemetery immediately because of a legal question pertaining to the employment status of the caretaker," Tankersley said. "The cemetery committee is still in place and Nina Johnson is continuing to serve as financial officer in the position of secretary/treasurer."
He added that Oct. 1, 2006 is the target date for the city to assume responsibility for the cemetery's financial accounts.
City Attorney Larry Madison is in the process of revising an ordinance that addresses
the perpetual care of the cemetery. The committee's financial records show that over $150,000 is earmarked for that purpose.
Tankersley said he believes the cemetery can be maintained properly as a function of city government without being in conflict with standard accounting guidelines and he encouraged the continued support, oversight and assistance of the cemetery committee.
"I told them (committee members) when we last met that we can't have the quality cemetery we now have without volunteers," he stated.
"I envision us being an advisory body with any eye out for what is going on at the cemetery and making sure that it's maintained correctly," said Tanner. "I'm concerned about the perpetual care of the cemetery and I'm interested in seeing the provisions made for that in the proposed ordinance."

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