Cemetery rules and regulations will undergo proposed review and revision from a recently-formed committee by the Fort Meade City Commission.
The topic first came to light in November, and City Manager Fred Hilliard noted that it was an appropriate time to start such a review.
“As the community begins to see a shift in our populations ethnic composition, new traditions are emerging in the cemeteries,” Hilliard noted. “The staff is very reluctant to remove any item from a grave site. Differing cultures have unique ways to honor their dearly departed. A grave site purchased by a family … is deeded to them and as with all real estate transactions needs to be recorded with the Polk County Clerk of Court.”
These recent emerging trends have prompted the city to prioritize the enforcement of its existing cemetery rules and regulations when such enforcement was not a priority in previous years, he noted.
“By developing and implementing new rules and regulations governing our cemeteries, it will affect the residents whose loved ones are buried here, but it will provide standards for keeping these areas in a safe and orderly manner,” Hilliard wrote in a memo to commissioners.
The new committee will consider revising rules and regulations concerning cemetery lot sales and transfers, the reservation of spaces, interments and disinterment, decoration of plots, memorial work, and the conduct of persons within the cemetery.
To help aid in this revision, city staff had obtained for review cemetery rules and regulations from neighboring cities such as Winter Haven, Bartow, and Davenport.
Some of the proposed regulations for both Morrison and Evergreen Cemetery include:
• The costs of buying a lot may be paid in annual payments “over a period of time not to exceed five (5) years [at] 8 percent interest, with interest to begin accruing ninety (90) days after execution” of a promissory note.
• No flowers, shrubs, or herbs (save Florida-Friendly plants) are to be planted on cemetery plots.
• Only one bouquet of flowers may be placed by lot owners on each grave either in a ground-level vase or a vase built into the memorial.
• Trash and other debris is not to be left on cemetery grounds and must be collected and properly disposed of by lot owners.
• Children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Hilliard recommended Alicia Walton as the committee’s facilitator, noting that her knowledge and expertise with the city’s cemeteries would make her a valuable leader.
Other people considered for the committee include City Commissioner Rick Cochrane, Historical Society president Don Marchman, and Mark McLean, with two additional members being sought by Hilliard.
Walton was contracted part-time by the city last September to input the historic records of Morrison and Evergreen Cemeteries into consolidated computer database.
For the past four months, she has entered 1,760 graves into the database and taken 1,400 photographs for the project in order to obtain the necessary data.
She has nearly completed the entries for Morrison Cemetery (with a few exceptions concerning graves that were left unclear) and will be moving onto Evergreen Cemetery, which she considers to be more challenging and time-consuming because of the variety of its record keeping and its many additions and annexations over the years.
Her next step with the project will be to perform more research and review in order to obtain more details about the graves that were left in question at Morrison Cemetery.
The committee has yet to meet and is expected to have its first meeting scheduled this month.