Bridgeport council addresses need for cemetery policy

Mike Maltais/QCH Extensive decorating of some Bridgeport cemetery sites is preventing regular mowing because public works staff cannot take the time to remove and replace items during regular scheduled maintenance.

BRIDGEPORT – A standardized policy for the city cemetery that will clarify what practices are allowed and not allowed was a topic of extended discussion at the regular monthly meeting of the city council last Wednesday, June 15. Regular city maintenance of the site is becoming more of an issue as grave sites are becoming more decorated with floral arrangements, solar lights, and other mementos.

“I have checked with towns around us and nobody allows what we are allowing at this cemetery,” said Mayor Janet Conklin who opened the floor to suggestions as to how best to address a practice that is of a sensitive nature to many who have loved ones interred there. 

Director of Public Works Stuart Dezellem explained the problem facing the city from the perspective of his maintenance department.

“What we are starting to get are full burial spots being enshrined and it’s really causing problems with upkeep,” said Dezellem. “Our work becomes harder and more involved. What’s in the (city) code right now and what’s happening up there are two different things.”

Dezellem is now seeing concrete blocks partially imbedded in the ground, live plants growing, rose bushes planted and similar obstacles blocking efforts to keep the grass cut.

“The decorations around the headstones such as a vase of flowers, a bottle of water, or a candle, are not the issue; that’s been going on since before I worked here,” said Dezellem. “But it has moved into this full-plot thing.”

Council member Jackie Hentges inquired if those who mow their own plots are part of the problem. Conklin and Dezellem said the self-mowers are full burial site owners. Conklin noted the last encounter brought to her attention was over a party backing a vehicle over other headstones to unload a lawnmower.

City clerk/treasurer Judy Brown suggested installation of an information kiosk to help the public navigate the grounds.

“It’s been my goal that we’d be able to have somebody go up there and find their loved ones because they don’t remember where they’re buried or whatever,” said Brown. “Along with that there could be the rules; the times things are removed or what can be done.”

Council member Sergio Orozco inquired as to what manner of guide is available to locate burial sites now. Dezellem said the city has a map that identifies the four cemetery blocks, with six paired rows of plots per block. He added that a smaller version of the map could be produced for use at a kiosk as a location guide and information aid.

Conklin stressed that whatever policy guidelines the city adopt “they must be consistent, everybody is treated the same.”

Conklin said a draft proposal will be presented at the next council meeting for further consideration.


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