Pacific officials took steps at the May 15 board of aldermen meeting to organize the affairs of the two city cemeteries.
Aldermen gave final approval to an ordinance that returns authority to appoint the cemetery sexton to the mayor and placed funds in the budget to hire an outside expert to review the cemetery records.
The cemeteries have been the source of disharmony for eight years that resulted in public spats and lawsuits. The city has had no official sexton for the past four years.
Four weeks into his administration, Mayor Steve Myers said he believes the new measures will ease the disharmony and put the affairs of the cemeteries on sound footing.
The city owns two cemeteries, City Cemetery on Orr Street and Resurrection Hill Cemetery on Highway OO. Both burial grounds date to the late 1800s.
A city sexton was appointed by the mayor with approval of the board of aldermen and was tasked with management of the cemeteries.
With the new ordinance, the mayor’s appointment of a sexton to manage the cemeteries will include a contract between the city and the sexton that spells out the duties, authority and pay.
“I believe with a well-crafted contract we’ll see the cemeteries run more smoothly,” Myers said.
For more than 100 years, the cemeteries were managed by three generations of the Bruns family, who served as sexton.
The most recent family member, Alan Bruns, served as sexton from 1988 to 2014, but was not reappointed when Jeff Palmore was elected mayor in April 2014 and there has been no official sexton since then.
In 2015, aldermen passed an ordinance to remove the mayor’s authority to appoint the sexton. During Palmore’s term, the mayor and later city administrator managed the cemeteries.
After former Mayor Herb Adams was elected Ward 2 alderman in April he pushed to have the authority to appoint the sexton returned to the mayor.
Aldermen then gave final approval to an ordinance returning the authority to the mayor. At the suggestion of City Attorney Bob Jones, the ordinance called for a contract between the city and sexton that spells out the duties, responsibilities and pay of the sexton.
Ward 3 Alderman Andy Nemeth asked whether the city could turn operation of the cemeteries over to an outside manager.
“We need to get out of the burial business,” Nemeth said.
Myers said since the city owns the two cemeteries, it cannot relinquish its responsibility to maintain them. He also said the appointment and contract with a sexton would restore orderly management of the cemeteries.
The city attorney is in the process of preparing a contract to detail the duties, authority, responsibilities and pay of the sexton.
In the same meeting, Adams asked that $10,000 be placed in the budget to hire an outside cemetery expert to review the city cemetery records.
“We don’t want a local volunteer,” he said. “We need someone who is an expert in cemetery records.”
Adams noted that as mayor he had formerly put $12,000 in the budget for the same assignment, but aldermen removed the funds from the cemetery budget and assigned them to the police department to buy a motorcycle.
“We still have the cemeteries with questions about the records and we don’t have a motorcycle,” Adams said. “Maybe this time aldermen will leave the funds in the budget and we will hire an outside expert to help with the records.”