City may allow slab for grave that was violated

Published 9:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

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After repeated requests to the LaGrange City Council, the city will potentially modify the covenants and restrictions at Southview Annex Cemetery to allow a local woman to place a slab over her late husband’s grave after another person’s remains were buried above his casket.

Wanda Barrett asked to place a slab on the grave of her late husband Carlos after she discovered another person’s urn buried above his casket. Her husband was buried at Southview Cemetery in LaGrange in November 2021. The urn was discovered in July 2022 when she noticed the gravesite had been disturbed.

West Georgia Mortuary later confirmed that the urn had been buried above her husband’s casket, and it was relocated. She said a dead patch of grass where the urn had been is a sore reminder of the incident.

“I’m just trying to get this done, so that we can try to move on. I’m never going to get over it but having this slab on his grave, just knowing that he is protected, will help me and my family sleep at night and just move on,” Barrett said during the LaGrange City Council work session on Tuesday morning.

When Barrett initially wanted to place the slab on her husband’s grave, she was told it wouldn’t be possible because it violates a city ordinance.

The ordinance dates back to 1928 and is believed to have been put in place to reduce maintenance costs.

Landscape Cemetery Superintendent Chris Prather said city code for the cemetery allows upright headstones and a footstone so you have rows of headstones that are at least 9 feet apart.

“We’re able to run the mower down and back and weave around the headstones. If you place slabs, you can’t get the mowers through between the headstones,” Prather said.

“If you can’t get the mower between them, you have to weed-eat the whole area.”

Other cemeteries that predate the rule, like Hillview Annex Cemetery off New Franklin Rd., take significant time and expense to maintain.

“We have a five-man crew. It takes them a week to do Hillview Annex because they can’t get mowers in there. They have to physically weed-eat the entire 10 acres,” Prather said.

Prather said mowers also cannot drive over slabs that are even with the ground because they would potentially damage them. The slabs also sometimes settle into the ground causing a walking hazard.

Assistant City Manager Bill Bulloch suggested burying a slab 6 to 8 inches below the ground so that the grave would be protected and mowers could cut above it.

Barrett seemed amenable to the idea, but Prather said it would need to be buried at least 18 inches down to prevent the grass above it from dying during dry seasons.

Once Barrett learned the slab would have to be buried that deep, she opposed the idea saying it would leave room for another urn to be buried above her husband.

Rather than give Barrett a variance to place the slab in consideration of the circumstances, the city chose to simply remove the section of the cemetery ordinance that forbids slabs for Southview Annex. Other cemeteries were not affected.

A first reading for the amendment was held at the subsequent council meeting on Tuesday evening.