ELLERBE — Workers have spread fertilizer and cleaned out the drainage ditches at the town cemetery on Millstone Road, in hopes they can “get this really turned around.”
Last February, Mayor Lee Berry and Richmond County Extension agent Paige Burns took soil samples at the cemetery, then sent them off to the N.C. Department of Agriculture, to see what it would recommend.
The samples haven’t come back yet, but the town didn’t want to wait, said Town Commissioner Fred Cloninger, who’s also a farmer. The department could take months to make a recommendation.
“We went ahead and made a good start,” Cloninger said. “We had to start at zero anyway, (so we) couldn’t do any harm.”
Cloninger said the town would fertilize again in the fall, too, but that “it will probably take a few years” for the cemetery to recover from the erosion that relatives of those interred there have complained about.
Laying the fertilizer and cleaning clogged ditches improved the looks of the place immediately, he said. The cemetery never will be a garden spot, he said — the sandy soil won’t allow it — but maintenance efforts can make it more tranquil.
“Cemeteries are tough places to maintain in the best of situations,” Burns said after touring the Ellerbe plots in February. They’re even tougher when steady rains create erosion.
Mayor Berry figures the town will need to spend about $5,000 to rejuvenate the cemetery grounds.
It had not budgeted that money in the past, each year setting aside $2,500 for cemetery maintenance, with that whole amount usually spent just mowing the 10-acre lot. Mowing happens twice a month in the summertime.
During their latest meeting, however, commissioners revised how the city finances the cemetery, now sending 50 percent — and not 100 percent — of the money generated by plot sales into the general fund, and reserving 50 percent to create a maintenance and beautification fund.
Plots cost $300 for Ellerbe residents and $600 for nonresidents.
Cloninger said the city still needed to work on the cemetery wall and would have to take quotes for that work.
It also would like residents to help decide how to maintain and beautify the cemetery. Those interested may call Town Hall at 910-652-6251.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]