After operating the Wilmore Cemetery for nearly 60 years, the Charles Crouse family has approached that city, asking it to take over operations of the land.
The Wilmore City Council discussed the prospect of taking over cemetery operations during Monday’s meeting, and the huge cost involved in operating the cemetery was a sticking point.
“We knew this was coming and Dave Carlstedt (director of utilities and public works) has been working the past couple weeks on some comparative numbers from Nicholasville, Versailles, Bowling Green other different communities, large and small, about operations of the cemetery and costs and the dynamics of it,” Mayor Harold Rainwater said.
Carlstedt said what his research discovered was astonishing.
“I found out that cemeteries are expensive,” he said.
Over the past several weeks, Carlstedt has met with officials from Nicholasville and Versailles, and he found that each body’s general fund has to subsidize a large sum for the respective cemeteries.
For example, the Nicholasville general fund subsidized its Maple Grove Cemetery to the tune of $269,019 in fiscal-year 2011, according to that city’s audit.
That has the council buzzing, Rainwater said.
“That has the council stirred up, but I’m taking a different view than the council,” he said. “They’re looking at it as far as economics, and I, quite frankly, think that (the people buried in the cemetery) are still residents of Wilmore, whether you’re alive or not.”
Rainwater said those buried in the cemetery helped make Wilmore what it is today.
“Those people spent their lives here, and they’ve paid taxes here, and they gave to the community,” Rainwater said. “The founder of (Asbury University) and the founder of (Asbury) seminary are buried there. Personally, my dad and granddad are buried there, and there’s children of people in this community that are buried there, so this is a very dear place.”
Councilman Jeff Baier said the issue is a double-edged sword.
“We want to make sure that the grounds are maintained properly, and we want to make sure we keep it up and make sure it is a respectful place for those who are buried there and for their families,” Baier said. “But to do that, it takes money; that’s what the issue is.”
Baier said he would like to have more information in order to make a sound decision.
“I think before we really explore it and before we make a commitment, we need to have some more facts,” he said. “Some of the information that has come back from other cemeteries in the area is their operating revenues are subsidized greatly by government, and before we make any decisions, we need to know how we’re going to pay for it.”
Carlstedt said the financial documents the Crouse family has provided only go back five years and the numbers don’t appear to be steady.
“We don’t have a lot of data from the family that owns the cemetery right now,” he said. “They’ve given us a five-year mini-summary of their cemetery operations, and clearly, the revenue from the cemetery has been meager and the operating expenses have been more than the income.”
Carlstedt said the family has not provided a firm number of how many graves are presently in the cemetery but estimated that there are more than 1,200 in the approximately 6-acre tract of land. He said because he doesn’t have a firm number, it is difficult to get pricing on a lawn service to give an estimate.
“They want to know numbers of raised elements,” he said.
Carlstedt said he recently performed a manual count and came up with 1,490 raised elements such as headstones, statues and benches.
The city council did not take any action on the cemetery issue Monday night.