Hartman Residents Fed Up with Cemetery Conditions

The apparent lack of any continuous maintenance at Hartman Cemetery brought over a dozen Hartman citizens to the Prowers County Commissioners meeting last Thursday, October 20, to protest conditions, a lack of action from the current Hartman Cemetery board members, and to seek some guidance on how to correct the situation.

Hartman Cemetery is one of five funded by an annual levy which raises $32,000 a year to pay for maintenance and upgrades at Hartman and the other four. According to the citizens attending Thursday’s meeting, nothing has really been done for several years, and the look of the cemetery shows it. Along with letters of protest, residents gave the commissioners recent photos taken in August showing weeds over a foot tall, gravesites that have sunk into the ground, a sprinkler system that hasn’t been in use for over a year, unwatered trees and lawns and sporadic and haphazard bookkeeping and records on the part of the caretaker and the board members.

The newest East Prowers Cemetery Board member, Jennie Marston, who was appointed by the county commissioners, submitted her letter of resignation dated October 12. Her letter claimed the current board was unresponsive to questions or suggestions from her. Her letter read in part, “When someone does attend, they pick on them and try to make them feel like an intruder. These visitors are taxpayers and they have the right to attend these meetings.” Other residents read from prepared statements expressing their displeasure and dissatisfaction with cemetery conditions. Marston said she, Alta McBee and Francis Simmons visited all five cemeteries in August and took photographs showing the conditions and lack of care, with Hartman being the worst. She said since that time, conditions have improved, “But the biggest problem is lack of water in the Hartman Cemetery.” She said the lawn was extremely dry and she feared that trees planted there might die from not being property watered. Marston said bills from 2005, for example, showed water charges for five months at only $22.83 and $72.65 for six months the following year.. She recounted that the watering system was not operable due to a possible lightning strike in 2007 and was not reconnected until the middle of 2010.

Marston said other problems include a lack of by-laws, no official job description for the caretaker, no contracts and a questionable payment approval process. She also said the board has ‘spur of the moment’ meetings which are not posted and makes it impossible for interested citizens to attend.

Commissioner Henry Schnabel said the commissioners have wanted to be able to staff all five cemetery boards with members who will look after the best interests of the cemeteries. He said some boards have not been functioning at the level they should have with regard to by-laws, record-keeping, and a level of continuity. He asked the gathering what they want and how they hope to accomplish their goals. Schnabel said the commissioners appoint the boards and hope they will set up by-laws and a system of self-government and set a direction for the cemetery districts, and provide a level of good care for all of them. Commissioner Millbrand said this was not the first time that an East Prowers Cemetery board had developed problems. About 20 years ago, he said, the community of Holly sent out notices to citizens and formed a new board.  He said that act was illegal as the commissioners are charged with that responsibility. Millbrand said those actions caused concern over the care of all the cemeteries which apparently operated independently. As a result he said, these are some of the poorest kept cemeteries in the state. Regarding Hartman, Millbrand said that as a funeral director, he has tried to work with that board for improvements. He too, said the commissioners have limited powers in these matters, which was why board members were appointed to oversee the care of the cemeteries. Commissioner Joe Marble, said regardless of the boards, the buck does stop with the commissioners.

County attorney, John Lefferdink said the board was established in 1962, but the citizens can select their own board and from there, they can run the show. There are three members on the Hartment board who govern by majority rule, but if the citizens don’t like what’s going on, they can seek redress with the commissioners. Several of the citizens exclaimed at that point, “That’s why we’re here!”

by Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: BusinessCommissionerscommunityCountyFeatured


About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.