Over 60 people showed up to the Jacksonville Municipal Building Thursday night to talk about the challenges that rural cemeteries face in the region.
Board members of cemeteries from Morgan, Scott, and Greene counties were in attendance to hear about common problems compiled by local funeral director and Ebenezer Cemetery Board member John Buchanan.
Buchanan was hoping to address aging of cemetery governance, government regulations, fees, funding, and maintenance.
Buchanan says the good attendance shows that there are many people concerned with these issues and more in area’s burial grounds: “I think we have given folks an opportunity to care for cemeteries and an offer to get together and talk about problems and solutions. I know there was not going to be any easy solutions. I think there were about 60 people here today – wonderful turnout from about 3 counties around Jacksonville. I was very pleased that they all took their time out of their day to come and share some opinions, some thoughts, and gather some information.”
Buchanan passed out a ballot of potential action items for the cemetery boards to consider and return for consideration of a possible future type of alliance between all the cemeteries to work on their many issues collectively. Buchanan says the 4 options will present the next step: “The first choice says ‘Hey everyone, we’re getting by. We’re doing okay. We don’t need any kind of organization to our cemetery other than what we are doing.’ Choice Two says gathering and forming a formal association or corporation, not for profit, or 501c3; and ask, perhaps the county or a voting district, to put an option on a ballot to fund a cemetery maintenance district. That’s going to be a much bigger challenge, and it would be a much different way of doing things for all of the cemeteries. You can imagine some people were hesitant. In between there, we had a couple of different options that I wanted people to choose from or offer an opinion for that meant a loose more formal organization that would meet periodically to discuss these issues that cemeteries are facing.”
Buchanan says the association of West Central Illinois cemeteries would be a loose alliance of the burial grounds in the area that could meet together on a periodical basis, feature guest speakers, and request listening session with local elected officials to voice concerns over the governance and upkeep of local cemeteries.
Buchanan says he’s eager to hear from the individual cemetery boards because each cemetery has its own set of circumstances. He hopes the meeting will spur more ideas and continued work and interest in maintaining the area’s cemeteries in perpetuity.