Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater cast a tie-breaking vote Monday to approve the first reading of an ordinance to allow the city to take over Wilmore Cemetery.
The vote is one of just a few tie-breaking votes Rainwater has cast in his 37 years in office.
“There have probably been four or five times that I’ve done so,” Rainwater said, adding that he couldn’t remember the last time a tie occurred.
The mayor said his strong feelings in support of the ordinance led to his vote.
“A cemetery reflects the history of your city,” he said. “I felt a responsibility to make sure it’s well taken care of.”
The cemetery is currently owned and operated by the Crouse family, who approached the city in January 2012 requesting that Wilmore take over its operation.
For more than a year, the city has debated the issue, with some members asserting the city has a moral obligation to care for the cemetery and others arguing against it, insisting that doing so will put the city further in debt.
Running the cemetery would add at least $20,000 to $25,000 to the city’s budget.
Council members have suggested establishing a nonprofit foundation whose sole purpose would be to manage the cemetery for the city. A couple of groups have shown interest, Rainwater said.
Asbury Theological Seminary and Asbury University also have expressed a willingness to chip in funds.
These would most likely be one-time donations, the mayor said.
The vote comes after a special-called workshop last week in which the council debated the issue. At that meeting, Rainwater said the council needed to make a decision because the family had said it needed to do something with the cemetery soon, as it could no longer operate it.
Rainwater said he fears that if the city doesn’t step up, the cemetery might not be cared for as it should.
“I wanted to throw my energy and support at it,” he said.
The mayor said he hopes a board or other entity is established, and the city’s role is transitional. Ultimately, he wants to ensure the cemetery is in good hands.
“I’m concerned about the future of it,” he said. “About 3,000 people are buried there. The city has a responsibility to those buried in it.”
He said the city has this responsibility even though operating the cemetery would not make a profit, adding cities don’t make money on parks, but that they maintain them.
He added that a city is often judged by its cemeteries.
“I want us to be judged on a well maintained cemetery,” he said.
With the mayor’s yes vote, the first reading was approved, with council members Lynn Cooper, Jeff James, and Leonard Fitch voting in support of it, and council members Jeff Baier, Kim Dyer, and James Brumfield voting against it.
The proposed ordinance will require a second reading, scheduled for the city council’s next meeting, before being enacted.
The Wilmore City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for March 18 at 6 p.m. at Wilmore City Hall.