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Cemetery policies reviewed

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Commission bans burials on Sundays, major holidays

By Dave Taylor

The Bedford City Commission held the first reading of a cemetery ordinance outlining policies and procedures for the city’s operation of the Bedford I.O.O.F. Cemetery.

The city bought the cemetery in September from the local lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows. Because of declining numbers, the lodge sold the cemetery as one of its final orders of business before folding.

“They were going to put it on the open market,” Commissioner Darrell Harmon explained during the meeting.

“We felt it was our duty to take it,” Commissioner Harold Greene said.

City attorney Genon Hensley noted one significant change in the operation of the cemetery. “There will be no burials on Sundays or on major national holidays.”

The qualifications, duties and responsibilities required for the position of cemetery sexton also are  detailed in the ordinance. Hensley said the sexton will be an independent contractor and not a city employee. The pay rate would be $300 per month plus $150 for each grave opening and closing.

Commissioners will review the document and make any necessary changes prior to the second reading at its June meeting.  The city has agreed to buy a new fireproof filing cabinet in which to house cemetery records and other important city documents.

In other business, the commissioners approved the second reading of the 2009 City Tax Rate Ordinance, establishing the city’s ad valorem tax at 0.0015 percent, or 15 cents for every $100 of assessed value for property within city limits. The tax rate remains unchanged from a year ago.

The commission heard the first reading of a revised version of the city’s nuisance ordinance, which amends the original passed in 1995.

The amendment sets forth “dangerous trees or stacks of rubbish or mud and other debris” as nuisances, prohibiting any such situation allowed to linger that could  “endanger the life, limb, or property of, or cause hurt, damage or injury to persons or property upon the public streets or public ways.”

Likewise, the ordinance prohibits anyone from allowing mud, rubbish or other debris “to be tracked, carried or blown upon the public streets, public ways or private property of other homeowners without immediately cleaning up same.”

The commission also heard the first reading of its proposed 2009-10 budget. Hensley said the spending plan “has changed very little from last year. The adjustments were very minor.”

The ordinance sets the General Fund at $232,000; the sewer account at $188,000; the miscellaneous account at $515,000; and savings at $268,096.

The commisison will review the budget and make recommendations of any changes to be made during its June meeting, at which time the second reading likely will be approved, finalizing the budget.

In other business, Harmon expressed concern over a number of basketball goals that have been set up along city streets.

“One is on a dead-end street, but the others are on a thoroughfare,” he said. “I’ve heard of one lady who sets up a [traffic] cone out in the street so her kids can play. School will be out soon, and a lot of kids will be out on the streets.”

Hensley said the situation may be difficult to enforce, “but we can’t have them blocking the street.”

She recommended the city send letters to property owners involved, warning of the dangers of setting goals up too close to busy streets.

“If they’re playing in the streets we need to address it,” she said.

Christina Poole, area representative for U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, attended the meeting and told commissioners that Congress will be passing a new federal highway bill during the current session.

She said Davis is hoping to secure “a large sum of money from that for the Milton-Madison bridge [replacement project]. There is a rigorous process to go through, but the Congressman is very supportive of that.”

The next meeting of the Bedford City Commission is 7 p.m. Monday, June 15, at the Morgan Community Center.