The Dallas County Board of Supervisors met in their regular session on May 2 at 902 Court Street in Adel. Chairman, Kim Chapman, was absent from the meeting.
A common point of discussion over the last several months has been in regard to the possibility of the Board approving a resolution, defining their role in the upkeep of pioneer cemeteries, which are defined in Iowa as Cemeteries that have had 12 or fewer new burials in the last 50 years.
The State of Iowa allows for counties to regulate the maintenance of pioneer cemeteries, however, Dallas County has left this up to the township trustees, as per their wishes.
At the meeting on Tuesday, Julie Turner, Adams Township clerk, was in attendance to discuss the possibility of receiving funds from the Board of Supervisors to help with the restoration of headstones and monuments at Longmire-Davis Cemetery and McKibben Cemetery, which are both pioneer cemeteries. The maintenance efforts also include Ellis Cemetery, which is not a pioneer cemetery and not subject to County regulation.
The monument restoration would be the next step in ongoing restoration efforts at those cemeteries.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time and energy and funds maintaining fence lines, putting in new fences, getting brush taken down, etc.,” Turner said. “The next line in that step of taking care of the cemeteries was restoration and repair of monuments.
“And when it came to our attention that, now, underneath a pioneer heading, that this would be something that the county should then be looking into, instead of us.”
Turner said that she estimates that they would need about $1,600 from the County for the restoration work.
She said that she had asked Chapman, who represents Adams Township, what the procedure was for this, and he told her that the County doesn’t yet have a procedure. Supervisors Mark Hanson, who filled in as chairman in Chapman’s absence, said that that’s why they were looking into creating an ordinance.
Turner said that the condition of the monuments is also affecting the costs of routine maintenance at those cemeteries.
“We’re losing so many monuments that are falling, literally, face forward to the dirt and it makes our maintenance costs go up because they have to mow around them, it takes them extra time to weed, trim around them and they worry about accidents and such,” Turner said.
According to a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors by Turner, on behalf of the Adams Township Board of Trustees, there are about 17 markers in the Longmire-Davis Cemetery in need of restoration, about 21 markers in the McKibben Cemetery and about 51 in the Ellis Cemetery. The initial bids they are for an average cost of $45 per marker for 50-100 markers.
The Board of Supervisors have the authority to levy a small tax on residents to fund the maintenance of pioneer cemeteries, and about 10 years ago, the County did collect such a tax for one year. Rob Tietz, operations manager for Dallas County, said that today that fund has a little under $10,000 in it.
Turner said that it would be her hope that other pioneer cemeteries in Dallas County could benefit from that fund as well.
“That would be the plan if we get the ordinance figured out and how this process is supposed to work and one of the issues we have is that in the current budget that we’ve got established for July 1 through June 30 of next year, we don’t have a pioneer cemetery levy,” Hanson said. “So we may only have the ten thousand available between now and when we would budget next year and if we wanted to re-institute the pioneer cemetery (levy) based on some calculations on what costs might be to upgrade and will we understand where all pioneers are.”
Along with Turner at the meeting was Bob Terry, from Marshall County, who has been in the cemetery restoration business for 30 years and in the cemetery mapping business for about nine years.
“Creating new documents and so on of cemeteries where the documents they’ve lost or destroyed for one reason or another,” Terry said of his experience.
He said he is able to use a dowser to find where bodies have been buried at cemeteries where monuments have been displaced or documents destroyed. He has helped such cemeteries around Iowa find burial sites using this method.
No action was taken on the discussion or on receiving the letter from Adams Township at the meeting as they are waiting for input from Chapman.