West Jefferson Aldermen table decision on maintenance of town cemetery mausoleums

Cliff Clark General Manager/Editor

October 11, 2013

A proposal to have the town of West Jefferson maintain the Bowie and Seagraves mausoleums in the town’s cemetery was tabled after several aldermen expressed reservations over an agreement that would obligate the town to care for the sites in perpetuity.

“I’m hesitant because the town’s responsibility is in perpetuity,” said Alderman Tom Hartman after listening to a presentation about the proposal from Gene Hafer, a retired attorney who is assisting the town with its upcoming centennial celebration and who has, with David VanHoy, cleaned the exterior of Bowie’s marble mausoleum in the last year.

The care of the two mausoleums and several other items were part of the agenda of the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen’s regular monthly meeting held Monday, Oct. 7, at town hall.

During Hafer’s presentation, he said the N.C. General Assembly created a statute that allows local municipalities to provide perpetual maintenance for individual grave sites if a trust fund is established to pay for the upkeep.

A trust fund of $10,000, which, said Hafer, will be provided by private individuals, would be established with all accumulated interest used to pay for the occasional maintenance. The principal of the trust would remain intact.

Hafer also said the statutes allow municipalities to enter into agreements with the plot owners, or their descendants, to maintain the site. Hafer said there are two descendants of the Bowies that live in South Carolina and have agreed to the proposal presented to the aldermen.

West Jefferson Mayor Dale Baldwin supported Hafer’s proposal.

“I think we sort of owe it to them,” said Baldwin, “they (the Bowie and Seagraves families) gave us the land for the (cemetery).”

The Bowie and Seagraves families donated 11 acres that is used as the town’s public cemetery and park prior to the 1960s.

Hartman acknowledged the land donation and the town’s obligation to maintain the cemetery, but said he thought the town could perform the occasional maintenance without entering into a long-term agreement.

Alderman Calvin Green did not support the proposal. He likened the town’s maintenance of the private grave sites as “no different than someone washing a car.”

“I have kind of a problem taking care of private property,” said Green.

Alderman Lester Mullis said he would not support the proposal because of private property issues and Alderman Dr. Brett Summey said he also was concerned about the town’s obligation into perpetuity, but didn’t emphatically announce his support one way or the other.

Mayor Baldwin then said the proposal would be tabled until additional information about an agreement could be gathered.

In other business before the board:

• Decided to not close any of the town’s street for Halloween.

• Briefly discussed and then tabled an ordinance that would regulate the operation of a horse-drawn carriage in city limits.

• Approved a resolution to obtain a deed on a portion of the property where the Tigra Building is located to allow for the drilling of a test well to determine the possibility of establishing a new water well on the property.

• Agreed to become the administrator for the incentive grant approved by the town and county for the General Electric expansion. The chairman of the county commission had contacted the town requesting it become the lead authority for the administration of the grant to GE.

• Learned the N.C. Department of Transportation had approved funding for a streetscape project at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and 2nd Street. The entire cost of the project would be covered by federal funds. The aldermen did not discuss the final decision on whether to move forward with the project. The traffic light at the intersection would be removed if the project is approved by the aldermen.

• Heard Police Chief Jeff Rose’s monthly report. Rose repored 200 calls dispatched through the communication center, 14 auto collisions investigated, 12 arrested for charges including DWI, larceny, assault and drug-related crimes, and six were arrested for drug violations.