The Harrodsburg City Commission gave second reading—and final approval—to an ordinance barring the placement of any new benches at city-owned cemeteries.
According to the new ordinance, any stone over one foot in height is a monument, and no more than one monument may be placed at any one lot. While current benches are grandfathered in, any new benches placed as either a foot or head stone will not be allowed.
Clarence Phillips spoke against the new ordinance. Phillips said he had started designing a loved one’s headstone and matching bench last year, but that they would not be installed until after the new ordinance goes into effect, and it was too late to change the design.
“I’m not against you changing your ruling,” Phillips said. “I can’t just turn around and give them that rock back.”
Phillips said passing the ordinance puts the city in a position of displeasing at least half the people, although officials say there are currently only 75-100 benches in the cemetery. Phillips suggested restricting benches to certain areas, such as at the end of the row. He said that would give the community more opportunities.
“This gives everyone in the community what they need,” Phillips said.
While officials say they have received complaints about benches blocking the names on the back of headstones, Phillips said he had no business worrying what went on in other lots.
Frieda Gebert endorsed the new ordinance. Gebert was upset that a brand new bench had been placed behind her parents’ grave. She said her family had bought the lots “in good faith” that when the monuments were placed, they would not be blocked by benches.
“If we had known it would have been altered, we would have chosen somewhere else,” Gebert said.
She said she knows elderly people need a place to sit when they visit loved ones at the cemetery. Gebert said she took her mother to visit her father’s grave when she was well into her 90s. But Gebert called the bench in front of her parent’s grave “disrespect.”
“I believe there is a better way to do this,” she said. “This is not the way.”
“We feel the same way you do,” said Commissioner Marvin “Bubby” Isham. Isham said the sexton is working with the other family on relocating the bench.
Before voting, Isham was asked if the grandfathered benches could be replaced if they’re damaged. Isham said the benches could be replaced, but families couldn’t add anything bigger than the original bench. He said the sexton has contacted all funeral homes and monument companies and informed them about the ordinance.
“We’ll try our best to work with people and keep them happy,” Isham said.
While the ordinance passed, Commissioner Ruth Ann Bryant voted against it.
“I just can’t go along with it,” Bryant said. “If I have a plot out there I ought to have a right to put whatever I want on that plot.”
The ordinance goes into effect immediately.
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