Community member raises cemetery concerns

BUCKHANNON — A community member approached Buckhannon City Council with complaints about the upkeep of Heavner Cemetery.

Larry Brown with Buckhannon VFW Post 3663 spoke to council to address concerns about how the Heavner Cemetery is being maintained.

“Heavner Cemetery gets rougher every year,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to have to do.”

Brown said he was informed three years ago that there would be a “three-man crew” maintaining the grounds all year.

The city’s public works director Jerry Arnold said there is a currently a three-man crew that manages the cemetery during the summer months.

Arnold further explained that for several years the city had contract loaned the cemetery “to the tune of it was going upwards to $40,000 a year.”

Eventually, the city decided to take on the duties again, he said.

“As far as complaints, I’m getting less complaints with our mowing than we were with the contractors, but again, there are some expectations that’s really difficult to live up to when it comes to the cemetery,” Arnold said.

He noted it is “extremely difficult” to mow to the height of how some folks keep their lawns.

“Simply because of the flat stones … The last thing we want to do is chip up a stone,” Arnold said.

He added the crew and volunteers often go to the cemetery to clean off the stones that have been untouched for 50 or more years.

“To me, the unknowns are just as important as anyone else that is buried in our cemetery,” Arnold said. “Maybe more so because I’m alive I can clean off my mom and dad’s stone, but there’s no one there to do that for them.”

He said the crew along with the volunteers have been working in a portion of the cemetery that has approximately 1,500 uncovered graves.

“Everybody deserves to have their stone cleaned off,” Arnold said. “The unknowns have no one there to clean their stones.”

Brown recommended that he form a crew in order to clear around the tombstones.

“I can’t imagine for the life of me that any additional labor would ever be refused by our public works area,” said Mayor David McCauley.

McCauley posed that the two entities work together.

“Any additional help or labor that any of the folks with the VFW or the American Legion want to throw at us to help spruce it up even better, we’ll fully embrace that,” he said.

McCauley said he would pass along Brown’s complaints to the Buckhannon Consolidated Public Works board.

“We’ll try to do better,” he said.

Arnold said the crew certainly wants to improve anyway they can.