By Tenesha Curtis, contributor
Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain City Council discussed cemetery maintenance and the rules of decorum at an in-person meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
A significant portion of the meeting involved a debate about whether city money should be spent on the upkeep of graves of soldiers who joined the Confederacy and fought to uphold the institution of slavery.
According to the city’s website, the cemetery – located off Silver Hill Road – “contains graves of veterans from the Civil War to the present.” It was established in 1850.
City Manager Warren Hutmacher noted that he had reached out to three landscaping firms regarding one-time cleanup costs for the city cemetery and only one firm responded. Their price was $9,030. He also inquired about the time commitment to have Stone Mountain Public Works do the job and was informed that it would take about four days.
Councilmember Gil Freeman stated that he took issue with the idea of using public funds to maintain the cemetery. He had requested a “paper trail” from Hutmacher regarding the source of the money to maintain the cemetery. Hutmacher said he had presented everything the city had regarding where specific donations to the cemetery fund had come from.
Freeman stated that, “thus far I have not received anything that’s satisfactory.”
“What I asked for,” Mr. Freeman explained, “is a ledger entry or receipts, something where I can follow the money.”
He said he needed to see the metadata on files to know when they were written, “and so on and so forth.”
Hutmacher said that the only other information he could retrieve would be copies of the donation checks themselves that are in storage.
Freeman stated that his constituents have told him the cemetery is “a Confederate cemetery” and public funds should not be used to maintain it.
Councilmember Monroe stated that he agreed that public funds shouldn’t be used to maintain “a Confederate State of America-themed monument.”
Councilmember Teresa Crowe noted that there is only about a half-acre section of the cemetery where Confederate markers are present, though the entire area is about 16 acres in total.
“That leaves about 15.5 acres that are city property that is not Confederate soldiers, and I think we have an obligation to maintain that,” Crowe said.
Freeman said, “I agree with Councilmember Monroe. I cannot support any public funds maintaining the Confederacy or any Confederate memorials.”
Councilmember Chakira Johnson said Monroe and Freeman seemed to argue that the entire cemetery should not be maintained because of one portion of it.
“We’re doing a disservice to those who are buried there and memorialized there and had nothing to do with the Confederacy,” she said.
Her comments were met with applause from the citizens in attendance.
Councilmember Gina Stroud Cox noted that she pays money for her family’s plots in the cemetery to be maintained because “I can’t wait on the city to do what they need to do.”
It was decided that this item will be moved to the agenda for the next regular session.
In other business:
Councilmember Freeman noted that he was doing research on the rules of decorum for other cities and completing a markup of the current rules for Stone Mountain. He stated that Stone Mountain could stand to “pull back on some of the language” used in the document. The item was moved to the next council work session.
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