Wooden crosses issue still unresolved

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Families plead for change in city's ordinance

By Shannon Brock

The debate over wooden monuments in Lawrenceburg Cemetery is still ongoing despite two city meetings in the past week in which the issue was discussed.

The city’s Public Works Committee met last Thursday, and the issue was brought before the full council on Monday night.

After hearing from six concerned, and at times emotional, citizens during Monday night’s meeting, the issue was bounced back to the Public Works Committee for further discussion.

Most of the citizens who addressed the council asked for the ordinance to be changed in order to allow the wooden crosses currently in question to remain in the cemetery.

Don Cox, of Alton Station Road, told the council he understood that the ordinance had been in effect for a while.

“But everything else changes, why can’t this?” Cox asked. “Why can’t it be changed? Are people’s hands tied with the rich?”

City Attorney Robert Myles told Cox that the ordinance certainly could be changed if the council chose to do so.

Becky Meadows, whose family has wooden crosses at the cemetery to mark the graves of her father, uncle, cousin and ex-husband, presented a petition to the city council with 504 signatures from community members in favor of leaving the crosses up.

Meadows, along with several others who addressed the council, said she didn’t receive a copy of the cemetery ordinance until June — seven months after her father was buried there.

“If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have buried [him] out there,” Meadows said. “My rights were taken away when I gave my money [for the plot] and didn’t get an ordinance.

“That cross, that’s all we have. That’s my closure. This is like losing my dad all over again.”

Stevie Cox, Meadows’ brother, tearfully addressed the council and asked its members to readdress the ordinance.

“I just ask you, in your heart, to change the ordinance,” he said.

Robert Cummins, of Alton Station Road, asked the council to do something to ease the pain of the families.

“They need something to go to,” Cummins said.

Cummins suggested that the city start a fund to help families who can’t afford to purchase bronze or stone monuments.

Cummins said he has built headstones for family members and offered his services to the city.

“I’ll donate every penny I can,” he said.

Mayor Edwinna Baker took Cummins’ phone number and told him she might get back with him about his offer.

During the Public Works Committee meeting last week, committee members decided to stand firm on the city’s current ordinance.

“We’re not discriminating against the crosses, it’s the materials they’re made out of,” Committee Chairman Bobby Durr said during Thursday’s meeting.

Durr said his fear is that a wooden monument would deteriorate in a short amount of time.

City Clerk Robbie Hume said he knows that purchasing a monument can present a financial hardship for families.

“I don’t know the right answer, but I do understand,” Hume said.

The committee decided to look into the option of offering a low cost, standardized marker with grave purchases. The markers would not be mandatory, but would be available for interested families. (See related story at left.)

Also during Thursday’s meeting, committee members discussed other possible changes to the cemetery ordinance.

These changes include allowing benches on graves in lieu of footstones, incorporating language in order to use the columbarium and removing language in regard to the perpetual care fund.

Committee members also wanted to incorporate language that would allow decorations on specific holidays and during the non-mowing period, and to create a pamphlet that would outline cemetery policies to distribute to families when they purchase plots.

The updated, proposed version of the cemetery ordinance was to be ready by the September council meeting, but now that the Public Works Committee is planning to meet again before that meeting, that date could change.

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.