People burying a loved one at Pasco’s City View Cemetery soon will have to use an approved list of headstone vendors because of problems with inferior and deteriorating grave markers.
Pasco is clamping down because while some of the newer headstones may appear fancy, they consist of countertop-type materials that are glued together or laminated and eventually start crumbling after exposure to the elements, said Rick Terway.
That has led to both maintenance problems and customer complaints about the overall character and quality of the cemetery, said Terway, Pasco’s administrative and community services director.
“People ask us why we’re not taking care of the headstones, but it’s not for us to care for,” Terway told the Pasco City Council on Monday.
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The cemetery is owned and operated by Pasco. However, it is not the city’s responsibility to maintain individual headstones and ornate monuments, like a miniature house made of granite.
That can be a problem for families who have moved out of the area or have no one left to oversee the upkeep and replacement of a dilapidated marker.
Cemetery workers have had to push the marker’s remains onto the concrete buffer, or remove the pieces which can leave the grave unmarked. Loved ones then can have difficulty finding a particular grave, though the city does keep records tracking each gravesite, Terway said.
City staff proposed an amendment to the municipal code that would require all gravestones and monuments be purchased through City View Cemetery.
Mayor Matt Watkins and a few other council members questioned if that will make it look like the city is trying to benefit from sales.
The council recognized that city staff want to have a uniform standard, so it recommended Terway create a short list of suppliers with quality materials. That way, people can buy direct from the cemetery or go off the list.
Terway noted that Pasco does not make a lot of money selling headstones.
Another change in the municipal code is the addition of language stating that the cemetery is a “non-partisan place and no objectionable monuments or messages will be allowed.”
Terway said the city needs to take some control over what people put on headstones, considering how easy it is to include any words or pictures with today’s laser engraving. He didn’t want to go into detail, but said people have tried to install headstones that are graphically or verbally offensive.
“We’re having an issue with people wanting to put things not commonly acceptable in a tranquil place, like a cemetery,” Terway said.
The facilities manager has the discretion “to determine what would be objectionable to a reasonable person without regard to a particular viewpoint.”
However, the city does provide an appeal process with a hearing examiner for administrative decisions.
City council members will vote on the amended municipal code at the March 21 meeting.