Claremore Daily Progress

October 31, 2012

County creates Cemetery Board

Group will oversee operations at 25 sites

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — Cemetery issues prompt the Rogers County Commissioners to create a cemetery board to oversee cemetery operations on public property.

Currently, the county has 25 cemeteries which it maintains, digs graves and assists in the burial of county citizens.
The county has been overseeing the operation for at least 50 years, according to Commissioner Mike Helm.
“A situation arose in District 3 that alerted me to the fact that the county has been mowing and buried people in private cemeteries,” Commissioner Kirt Thacker said.
Thacker explained that this was a surprise to him, due to the fact that, the two cemeteries in question were previously maintained by District 2 and Helm.
Local funeral director Jim Smith was involved with the funeral that Thacker brought before the board.
His funeral home had provided services to the family that requested the burial in a Catoosa cemetery.
The family was denied burial due to the cemetery being privately owned.
Thacker then tried to help the family, a day before the scheduled funeral and found a plot at the “outlaw cemetery” only to discover later that is was also privately owned.
As a result of the issue, Smith and Thacker have been researching the creation of a cemetery board and presented the state statutes to the other commissioners on Monday.
“Title 8 of the statute lays out how this is to be done,” Smith said.
The board will keep up with money from cemeteries and oversee operations, he added.
“I think this would be a good time to determine which cemeteries the county owns,” Smith said. “I don’t think you want county equipment and people working on private property.”
Smith was quick to say that in his experience as a funeral director in Rogers County, the cemeteries look better then they ever have.
Another issue is that some owners of private cemeteries charge for grave openings, the county does not.
The county does not allow for the reservation of grave plots with the exclusion of a spouse. Those graves must be marked with a double head stone, according to Commissioner Dan DeLozier.
DeLozier questioned the creation of the board and looked to insure that rules for the board would be made according to statute.
Smith said that the statute completely lays out the creation and operation, but the commissioners would have final authority.
The board will be collective governing over all cemeteries owned by the county.
Helm questioned the existing agreements he has with local municipalities for maintenance.
The board would have authority to incorporate those groups as well.
“I would like for us to institute this and I think it would be a living document in a way. Rules could be added or subtracted,” Thacker said.
The board will consist of six members, two from each district. For more information about the board contact the Rogers County Commissioners office at (918) 341-0585.