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City may help with marker repairs

Some grave markers in the city’s cemetery may be getting a facelift next year.
Under the direction of the cemetery board, the city council last week agreed to include a line item in future budgets to help pay for marker repairs.
One local family has been pushing for help with a deceased family member’s grave marker for years according to City Administrator Rick Childers.
Childers said the city acquired the cemetery more than 10 years ago from private ownership because the city believed it could maintain the property better.
“One of the reasons I think the city acquired the cemetery was to keep it in better condition and maintain it more effectively than it had been,” Childers told the council.
One school of thought Childers said is that most of the markers were damaged before the city took over, the other being the aforementioned. Childers said the board suggested paying for half of the cost to make the repairs. The request on the table now would cost $995 to repair. Childers said the city needs to be careful because any decision could open up the flood gates for more requests.
“There are certainly good arguments in favor of not doing it,” Childers said. “But I think the intent of the city was to improve the facility.”
The council came to a consensus that there is no money to make repairs this year, however did direct city staff to include the item in the next budget and create a first-come-first-serve list to make repairs.
The city also voted to transfer more than $4,700 from the general fund back into a perpetual cemetery fund that was overspent. Childers said money spent on a new dump truck, mower and overlays to the cemetery road contributed to the overage. Childers said city staff did some research into the fund when they made the discovery.
The fund was set up to draw interest to help pay for maintaining the cemetery. According to city ordinance, the fund is not to be spent for any reason.
“We’re not 100 percent certain exactly what the balance of the perpetual fund should be,” Childers said. “As nearly as we can tell, this would replace 100 percent of the fund.”
City Finance Director Melanie Allwood said the fund has $78,000 plus a donation of $15,000 that was given in 2000. Allwood said she couldn’t tell whether or not the donation was meant to be spent so the money will remain in the fund.
“I personally think it would be wise to leave it alone,” Allwood said.
Some city councilmen asked if there was money in the general fund to make the transfer. Allwood said that doesn’t matter.
“We really don’t, but I think that is beside the point,” Allwood said. “We really need to replace the principal. It clearly states that the principal cannot be used for anything.”
Childers said if the city can find out exactly what the donation was intended for then there might not be a problem, however city records only show a last name of the donor.
Before voting on the measure, the council requested the general fund be repaid by future interest from the fund. Allwood said that might take a while because the fund only generated just under $2,000 this year. She suggested moving the money from a low interest savings account to a CD account with higher yields. Allwood said the ordinance does not clearly state what to do with the money except to “invest it wisely.”
In other actions, the city approved an ordinance for minor in possession of alcohol. Richmond Police Chief Terri McWilliams said the ordinance would not change procedures. The ordinance allows the city to now prosecute minor in possessions through the city court.

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