Jefferson Co. cemetery board finally taking action to clean up abandoned, closed cemeteries
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - After our reporting helped spark legislation to clean up abandoned and neglected cemeteries in Jefferson County, the cleanup process is finally about to get underway. Last week, the board finally took action and voted a contractor to clean up Pine Hill and Shadowlawn cemeteries with work starting in the next 30 days.
“I’d say it’s been a long time coming. I mean we had a pretty slow start to begin with, but we’ve gained momentum over the time that has passed and we’ve kind of come together as a board so we’re going to go ahead and move forward,” Korey Hameen, Chairman of the Jefferson County Cemetery Board said.
The board was created in 2017 after a series of WBRC On Your Side Investigations looking into issues at overgrown and abandoned cemeteries. We’ve reported on conditions at Pine Hill for years. Just last week, we saw weeds and shrubbery almost six feet high in some parts of the cemetery.
Families with loves ones buried there are more than frustrated. They want to see the cemetery cleaned up and their loved ones treated with respect.
Lately, it’s been a guessing game for Vicky Bolling to try and find her father’s grave at Pine Hill. After a few tries, Bolling found it. His grave is almost invisible due to thick grass.
“The graves have just gone to nothing, and we want it cleaned,” Bolling said.
We took their concerns to the Jefferson County cemetery board.
“The board was formed five years ago, what’s been the hold up?” Asked On Your Side Investigator Josh Gauntt to the board chairman.
“I’m not exactly sure. The board was formed, but we didn’t get notification until about a year ago that were actually on the cemetery board and so by the time, we got together to be able to call the first meeting and get everybody together, we started there, and we’ve gone from there,” Hameen said.
It’s unclear why it actually took so long for the board to meet. A lawmaker who helped create the board told us political red tape was in the way.
Hearing clean up with finally take place is more than good news to Bolling and her Emma Webster who has already planned to be buried next to her husband.
“It’s just so sad to see how they let it go down. Years ago, it was really nice. Now it’s like nobody cares,” Webster said.
“We’re just looking forward to them getting out here, cleaning it up, and I would welcome that. I would be just so happy,” Bolling said.
Cleaning up cemeteries is one thing, but the board would like to take things a step further because right now there’s no state regulation over cemeteries.
“My hope going forward is that there will be laws put in place to regulate all cemeteries in the state of Alabama and not just from a cleanup standpoint, but from a regulatory standpoint,” Hameen said.
Hameen tells us there could be some things coming down the pipeline in the near future that could take care of all of that. The board has $175,000 it can spend to clean up cemeteries. The money is coming from county pistol permit fees. It’s important to note the board only deals with abandoned or closed cemeteries.
We’re told more cemeteries could be added to the clean up list in the near future.
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