Huntington addresses cemetery concerns
At the September Huntington City Council meeting, the topic of discussion was the cemetery. With a big crowd in attendance, it was anticipated that the meeting could have a very vocal discussion concerning the cemetery. That really never occurred, as most in attendance were favorable to the current facility.
About a week prior to the meeting, a county resident incited a confrontation with city personnel at the cemetery over what he perceived to be irreverent actions at the cemetery by city employees.
City employees had cut down some diseased trees and were removing them from the property. In doing so, the backhoe in use by the employees created deep ruts in the grass. While no headstones, caskets or vaults were damaged, the county resident was not happy that the grass had been driven on. He has a son buried close by. As the employees have said, driving on grass is common at every cemetery and is necessary to operate the facility.
Mayor Hilary Gordon started the meeting commenting on the situation.The mayor explained what had gone on and asked for all comments to be respectful and mindful of the feelings of others. Councilperson Julie Jones had received the brunt of the negativity including threatening phone calls.
The public had time to comment. Huntington resident Lisa Brower commented, "Change is hard, but change is sometimes necessary. It is hard to please all when changes occur." Brower noted that branches are constantly falling off those trees. Huntington resident Tom Grimm commented, "The past week has been hard, tempers have flared, things have probably been said that shouldn't have been. The mayor is working hard."
County resident Kay Truman was next and said, "I am the one that brought this to a head, I probably should say something. The trees should have been handled by a professional. I called people, I said things that I probably shouldn't have." The mayor and Truman had met earlier and feelings are healing.
Huntington resident Tory Ward said, "The cemetery is a sacred place. The trees are our pioneer heritage. Elms were brought in because they grow fast." Carol Ann Stream asked if any more trees are to be removed? If so, then she wants the one by her parents to be on the list to be cut down. She said that there are dead branches everywhere every time the wind blows.
Finally, Cardell Sackett, funeral director for Heritage Funeral Home in Huntington, commented. He said, "I have been to a lot of cemeteries throughout the country. Ruts in the grass are a common issue. Huntington is the best place that he has seen when it comes to correcting issues and making situations go away. The city workers are very conscientious."
Stream then commented that when her family gets together, they all comment how well the Huntington cemetery is cared for.
Councilperson Jones offered a heartfelt apology during her report. "I love the cemetery, I will always love the cemetery. I apologize for using city workers to cut down the trees but my budget had been cut." Jones was emotional at the meeting having just buried her father that very day.
Jones also talked about the proposed expansion of the cemetery and the current condition of the cemetery. A French drain is being installed right now to rid the lower part of grounds from ground water. She stated that future expansion to the south is necessary as the current grounds are quickly running out of available space. A local engineering firm is drawing up the plans for the proposed expansion.
In other business, the city had Nielson Construction spread the roto mill from Main Street UDOT project at the rodeo grounds. Besides spreading, the material was also rolled and this has made the rodeo facility better. Dan Dick has been hired by the city to work part time at the dumpster facility. He is there to make sure people dump in the right place, dump the right stuff and to keep the place cleaner. The Council voted to charge a fee for people that do not live in Huntington or Lawrence that want to use the facility.
A drainage problem in southeast Huntington has been temporarily fixed by the city and the Special Service District will address this permanently next year. This problem has been a breeding ground for mosquitoes all summer.
Councilman Travis Larsen reported that the completion of the new fire station would now be in mid-March instead of mid December. Larsen also reported that most of the equipment used by the fire department is out of date and needs to be replaced. The department has applied for an AFG grant that will pay for 95 percent of the cost of new equipment for the volunteer firemen. The anticipated cost is around $78,000.