Cemetery commission invites public to workshop

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Eureka Springs Cemetery Commission set the date for its outdoor workshop Wednesday, March 13, and is inviting the public to attend.

The outdoor workshop will be held at the Eureka Springs Cemetery from 8:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday, April 10. In case of rain, the date will be postponed to Wednesday, April 17, at the same time.

Commission chairwoman Susan Tharp said cemetery superintendent Pat Lujan will be leading the commission members on a walkthrough of the cemetery to see future growth areas and discuss plans for new additions or revisions to current additions.

“We want public input,” Tharp said. “It’s a good time to see what’s happening at the cemetery, and it would be good for them to see what we’re doing.”

Also at the meeting, the commission discussed a new policy on customers exchanging plots after they have purchased them.

Lujan said people have approached cemetery sexton Gloria Stevens about exchanging their plot for another in a different section of the cemetery.

“I don’t see any reason to be moving them. The sale should be final,” Lujan said. “Otherwise, we’re going to get people selling them all the time.”

He said the only time it would be different is when someone wants to move in order to purchase additional adjoining plots for family members to be buried next to them.

“We’ve also had people who have moved from one space to the other just because they want to move,” he said. “We haven’t been charging them, but it costs us to change the paperwork.”

Tharp said they may want to consider a new policy as new sections of the cemetery are opened up for burials.

“My thought is it’s fine to move,” she said. “You can move over here, but you’re going to purchase the new grave over here, and it’s up to you to sell what you’ve already purchased.”

Lujan agreed, saying people should be responsible for selling plots they have already purchased.

“We’ve had many people do that,” he said, “like a family who moved back to Texas.”

Tharp said the cemetery commission would need to be made aware of any transfers so that records stay up-to-date.

Commissioner Judy Holden said they should treat plots like any other piece of property.

“I see the point that we all want to be buried together,” she said, “but they should have decided that at the time of the purchase. You are responsible for selling [the old plot].”

Commissioner Glenna Booth suggested the commission should charge a fee to customers who do not want to resell their old plot.

“I would make it substantial so they say ‘I don’t want to do that. I can get it done myself cheaper,’ ” Tharp said. “Let’s think about that and then make a decision later.”

Lujan suggested plot exchanges be put on hold until the commission has made a final choice.

“Personally, I don’t think we should leave it on hold too long,” Holden said.

The commission also revisited the issue of borders around plots. Lujan said borders are making groundskeeping difficult in some sections of the cemetery because the plots are so close together.

“Anything that has been sold up to now would be grandfathered in,” Tharp said, “but we might look at some kind of restrictions on borders, not on headstones.”

She said a few people have voiced concerns over restricting borders.

“One gentleman said his major concern is we are an artistic community and there are many artistic people in this area,” Tharp said, “and you don’t want to limit them because that’s their final way of expression. I get it.”

She said she had explained that the commission might have to require perpetual care plans in the future if people want borders in certain areas of the cemetery.

“I don’t want anyone to think we’re just waylaying the whole thing,” she said.

Lujan said the issue with perpetual care plans is that another groundskeeper would have to be hired. He said he does not have time in his schedule to maintain the plants and decorations people might put in their borders.

Tharp said the commission does not have to prohibit borders throughout the cemetery. She said they could prevent them only in sections where the plots are so tight together that borders would get in the way of burials and maintenance.

“We can say ‘If you purchase a plot in this area, we will not allow you to put borders in,’ ” she said.

Lujan said that could work, noting that the commission does not allow borders on cremain plots.

“We allow headstones, but no borders,” he said.

Commissioner Roderick Beattie asked why they didn’t allow borders on cremain plots.

“Because we’re putting [cremain burials] in those tight areas,” Lujan said, “and there are graves that still need to be dug behind them.”

The commission agreed to discuss solutions further after the workshop.

Tharp also spoke to Holden about staying on as the assistant secretary and treasurer now that the commission will be purchasing a laptop.

“I know there were some issues with your computer,” Tharp said. “We’re going to obtain a computer that would be sufficient to do secretary stuff on it.”

She said the laptop will be kept at the courthouse and can be checked in and out on days that Holden or secretary and treasurer David Sallee need to use it.

“My suggestion would be I would leave the computer at city hall all the time,” Holden said. “I have no problem going down there.”

The commission also voted to remove the Bad Boy mower from the cemetery’s inventory so that it can be decommissioned and taken to the public works backlot.

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