Although Grantsville City officials made the decision without opposition over two years ago, some residents want the city to reverse its current cemetery expansion plan.
In an effort spearheaded by resident Laurie Hurst, more than 20 people attended last Wednesday’s Grantsville City Council meeting to stop a planned expansion of the Grantsville City Cemetery to 40 acres of land across the street next to the J.Reuben Clark Farm.
Clara Walters, one of seven persons who spoke against the expansion, expressed concern that the city’s heritage would be damaged by extending the city’s burial grounds to a portion of the city-owned estate.
“I really feel that if we start going any more on the J. Reuben Clark Farm, there won’t be anything left,” she said. “All we have is what’s at the Donner-Reed [Museum]. Our heritage as a town is dying out. I would prefer to see J. Reuben Clark [Farm] and show our heritage to people to come.”
Greg Bleazard told the council he felt the farm had potential to become a historical center, like Wheeler Farm in Cache Valley. He noted the site’s capacity to become a community gathering center would be squandered if part of it were turned into a cemetery.
“People don’t enjoy gathering in a cemetery. I think there’s a great opportunity for this town to build something,” Bleazard said. “It’s not a cemetery yet. Once it becomes one the desire to go there and celebrate is lost.”
Grantsville City Mayor Brent Marshall said since the expansion into J. Reuben Clark property was voted upon and passed by the city council in November 2010, the city has spent approximately $65,000 in improvements. They include water and sprinkling system installation, a timer for that system and labor. Excluded is the approximate $335,000 the city paid to purchase the farm a few years ago.
Resident Laurie Hurst said while the city made the decision more than two years ago, she doesn’t think the issue was well-publicized at the time and that the public didn’t have enough opportunity to comment on the decision. She has been gathering support through word of mouth and social media, and is compiling a petition to compel the council to reopen the issue.
“This is just a small sample of people who feel the same way,” Hurst said of the people gathered at the council meeting.
The cemetery expansion was originally discussed in 2010, prompted by concerns of the current cemetery running out of burial plots. The city council at the time looked at adjacent properties, including parcels to the east and west, as potential additions to the existing cemetery.
Marshall said those options didn’t work out for various reasons, the biggest of which was money. The city had just undergone a budget crisis and purchasing new land was not fiscally feasible at that time.
The Clark Farm was purchased earlier by the city with no real plan for its use. The fields to the north of the buildings were the best option the council discussed at the time, said Marshall, in part because there would be enough space that future administrations would not need to worry about finding more parcels of land for another expansion. No other ideas were brought forward from community members, either, he added.
“I think if there’d have been other comments brought up at that time certainly people would have backed up and said, ‘Is there another option?’ I think we’ve looked at the options, but I think we would have taken a step back, because it takes a couple years to get a cemetery going,” Marshall said, noting the bureaucratic process extended a window of several months before any work had been done on the expansion.
The mayor said at the time the issue was decided in November 2010, meeting minutes show that only one person spoke at the public comment portion — a man who lived near the Clark Farm who wanted to make sure no cemetery plans would interfere with the preschool inside the Clark House.
Despite the lack of interest at the time, Marshall said he has talked with several people recently about the issue, and found that many are not aware of the details of the city’s plan. Many have said they thought buildings would be torn down, but the current plan is to leave all buildings intact and in place.
Some have suggested other places for the cemetery’s expansion, he said, but the most popular suggestions—using the space currently used as a park and ride lot, or the city’s maintenance shop area—would have complications.
The city was awarded a grant to pave and improve the park and ride lot in early 2010, before the cemetery issue was discussed, and those improvements are scheduled to be done this spring, Marshall said.
Using the land that now houses the city’s maintenance shop would require purchasing more land, replacing the buildings and tearing down the current buildings to make that slot ready to be a cemetery, he said. The tally would be more than a million dollars, he added.
Still, said the mayor, the city is willing to entertain alternative options. Although public interest has come two years after the decision, he said, it is better now than if it had come after burials had started being performed.
The group in favor of keeping the cemetery expansion out of the Clark Farm property has agreed to submit a written list of other suggestions at the next city council meeting, Marshall said. The council has agreed to consider those suggestions.
“Of course, there hasn’t been anybody interned into this cemetery expansion, so I believe if there is another option that is viable then certainly the council — they’re the ones who have to vote on this — I believe they’d be open-minded enough to look at the options and consider them,” the mayor said.
“I have a lot of faith in those five guys,” he added. “I believe they’re interested in what’s best for the City of Grantsville. That will allow the council the opportunity to evaluate what their proposals are, and I’m sure there will be some issues that the council will probably need some answers on, and then comes the bottom line of time and money.”