I am sure most of you would like to know what happened today (8-31-03) at the County
Government Study Commission meeting. After listening to septic issues
for an hour and a half, we finally got our chance to testify. It was noon.
Most of the senators and representatives were not present. If I remember
correctly, there were six or seven there. After the septic issues were
finished, two commission members left. Chairman Marvin Riegsecker said he
wanted to finish by 1:00 p.m.
Senator Beverly Gard made opening remarks. Then I went. I discussed changing the word "may" to "shall" in IC 23-14-67 (Care of Cemeteries by Counties), cemeteries on private property, landlocked cemeteries, prairie grass restoration/nature preserves in cemeteries, and burning in cemeteries. Chairman Riegsecker thought maybe a tax break could be given to property owners with cemeteries located on their property if they maintained them. I thought this was a good idea.
Then Debbie Driskell, president of the Township Trustee Association spoke. Debbie - maybe you would like to tell the group in your own words your testimony.
Then Walt spoke. He talked about the PEOPLE who's headstones he has restored. I liked this approach very much because it showed that the pioneers were people just like us.
Donna talked about how she got into cemetery preservation through her genealogy research, showed her family's headstones in neglected cemeteries. Brought to their attention that an Indiana Cemetery (Ball Cemetery in Rush Co.) made National news with an article in the New York Times due to its neglected condition.
The DNR was present. Jeannie was there to answer questions if needed. Which she did. The DNR prairie grass guy (sorry I don't have a name. I am horrible when it comes to names) stated that the praire grasses in cemeteries are left as a tribute to the pioneers. That little of our prairie grasses are left, due to farming/development, and are mostly found in cemeteries and railroad right-of-ways. That controlled burning goes through fast and does not harm the stones. And after the burning, the headstones are cold to the touch.They were aware of the St. Johns Cemetery and have worked out a solution (which Jack stated in previous e-mail).
I believe it was Sen. Rethlake asked the DNR prairie grass specialist if the prairie grass could be transplanted. He answered yes. And that the seed pods could be saved to plant them in other areas. But stated that the 15 cemeteries that contain the prairie grasses were the only ones left undisturbed. He spoke with me after the meeting and said he understood our feelings (and was sincere) about the prairie grass in the cemeteries. I told him that I understood his position as well. That we are both trying to preserve history.
Jeannie stated there was a law in which private property owners could have the cemetery land assessed at $1.00/acre. And no one has taken advantage of the law. I, in turn, asked Jeannie if the property owners would have to pay for the survey of cemetery themselves. She answered yes. I looked at the legislators and said surveying is not inexpensive. (Gee, I wonder why no one has taken "advantage" of this?)
Matt Brooks with the Association of Counties had a real problem with changing the word may to shall in IC 23-14-67. Stated a levy could be enacted to restore and maintain cemeteries (what county official would want to do that when the State and Counties are in financial crisis????) That all levels of statutes should be looked at. That the Farm Bureau would be interested in the access issue.
Bud Bush spoke about land deeds. Said most cemeteries were part of the church or other organization(s) that are gone . For cemeteries like that, who is responsible for them? Stated trustees won't take care of them because they don't have a deed to the cemetery.
Helen Wildermuth planned on speaking but did not have time too. A copy of her speech was included in our packet though. Eddie Hagar, from the Henry Co. Finance Committee who had some financial solutions to speak about, was unable to because he was having a diabetic attack!!! He is o.k.
All in all, I think the meeting went well. The legislators that were left seemed interested. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 3 at 10:30 a.m. We will need people again.
Anybody else who attended the meeting want to add to anything?
Thanks to everyone who went to the meeting; and who worked on putting the legislative packet together. We made a great team!
#2 Donna, Angela, Ann and Ken preparing information packets for the County Government Study Commission meeting
#3 Ken, Angela, Helen, Donna and Ann at the assembly line
#4 Indiana State House July 31st, 2003
#5 Anticipation before the County Government Study Commission to speak and present information on Indiana Pioneer Cemetery Issues
#6 A number of people attended the hearing
#7 Rep. Tom Saunders (center) of Henry County considering information
#8 Chairman Marvin Riegsecker (right)
#9 Angela Tielking and Sen. Rethlake involved in discussion about cemetery issues following the hearing