MARY ANN ANDERSON
Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. That could have been the title for an agenda item during last week’s April meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council.
The council offered lengthy discussions during both Monday night’s work session and Thursday night’s regular session on updating the cemetery ordinance to focus more on providing small lots for cremains at both city cemeteries. Cremains, a relatively new word coming about in the mid-20th century, are simply defined as the ashes of a person’s cremated remains.
“We’re getting more and more people who choose to be cremated,” pointed out Mayor Bayne Stone, saying that “smaller segments” are needed for burial of urns as opposed to full-size burial lots that require room for vaults and caskets.
As of now, there are no sections of either the Hazlehurst City Cemetery in town or its sister property on the Lumber City Highway that are specifically designed for cremains plots.
The council is working with City Attorney Ken W. Smith for him to review and revise the ordinances to bring them into the 21st century as cremation continues to rise in popularity.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the rate of cremation in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing the rate of burial by more than 50 percent.
And, pointed out City Clerk Vernice Thompson during the workshop, cremation benches are also becoming a common choice for a final resting place. The benches are essentially small, free-standing bench-style mausoleums designed to store the urns of cremated remains of a single family, or, as Ward One Councilman Dywane Johnson described it, “a mausoleum that you can sit on,” a remark that drew laughter from the council.
While Smith and the council need more time to work toward changing the ordinance, work that Stone deemed “a right complicated project,” the mayor also added that the city has received several complaints that the city’s cemeteries are not maintained as properly as they should be. He promised that he would see to it that the city would do a “better job” of caring for both sites.
In other action, the council ….
…. approved a standard watershed protection plan aimed at managing the watersheds in Hazlehurst.
…. authorized Stone to sign the 2018-19 Department of Corrections contract to continue using the work detail of the Bacon County Probation Detention Center for an annual cost of $39,500.
…. listened in the workshop as primarily Stone, Ward Three Councilman Eric Griffin and Building Inspector Charles Harrell engaged in a lively, and at times contentious, discussion on how to best keep up with the money being spent on building the new Georgia State Patrol (GSP) station on U.S. Highway 341. Griffin reiterated to Stone that the entire council “needs to be apprised” of what’s going on with the expenses of building the station, with Harrell, who is overseeing the project, admitting that he has been “kind of slow on our paperwork.” Stone added that a bank account has been set up specifically for the project to “[keep] up with this thing precisely,” of “every single dollar being spent.”
…. after hearing Stone briefly outline changes on the fuel supply and credit card machine agreement with World Fuel Services, the global company that supplies aviation fuel to Hazlehurst Municipal Airport, authorized him to sign the agreement once World Fuel reviews and approves the modifications.
…. authorized Stone to sign the environmental assessment approval for the Capital Fund Program (CFP) grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
…. after meeting in closed session in the work session and then again briefly discussing in regular session, agreed that a lease and waste services agreement letter with an unnamed company is “in limbo,” and directed that Smith have more time to review the documents.
…. approved training and travel expenses for Thompson to attend the International Institute of Municipal Clerks conference in Birmingham, Ala., in May; for Deputy Clerk Lorrie Williams to attend regional training at Georgia Clerks Education Institute in Rome May 13-14; and for Brian Newell of the Hazlehurst Fire Department to attend Arson Investigation Level 1 training at Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth for two weeks, also in May.
…. said yes to approving March’s water and sewer adjustments, departmental reports, and check register for bills that were paid last month.
…. in the Citizens Comments section of the workshop, listened as Police Chief Ken Williams asked the council to review the roundabout at Pat Dixon Road and Collins Street. He pointed out that more yield signs at both roundabouts could help reduce the number of accidents, particularly at Pat Dixon Road and Collins Street. He also agreed with Stone’s assessment that an increase in the circumference of the center of the Collins Street roundabout would also help slow traffic. Stone said that the city would move forward with improving both roundabouts.
…. in the Mayor and Councilmen’s comments, Stone introduced the recently-hired Tony Parise to the council as a “tremendous asset” to the city-owned golf course. Also in this section, authorized Stone to sign two resolutions drawn by Smith on the GSP station that would ratify all actions pertaining to real estate, financing, reimbursements, and other issues. Stone also added that he is working with the Georgia Department of Driver Services to have a satellite office located at the station, and that while it is not confirmed, it is looking “very favorable” since Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County have several industries that employ hundreds of CDL drivers.
…. listened as Johnson thanked the city for its assistance with passing a resolution and hosting a contingent of well-wishers who “packed out our hotels” to honor Hazlehurst-born Ida Bell Robinson, who was the founder, senior bishop and first president of the Mount Sinai Holy Church of America.
The next workshop of the Council is scheduled for May 13, with the regular meeting to follow May 16. Both meetings are held at City Hall at 6 p.m.