Aldermen settle on plan for maintaining old cemetery

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen on Tuesday agreed to assume responsibility for maintaining a cemetery on Mountain View Lane variously known as The First Cemetery, The Old Cemetery or The Burial Ground.
The cemetery is city-owned, but has been maintained since the 1930s by the First Congregational Church of Vergennes, when a trust that had been caring for the cemetery handed over the task to the church.
In recent years church leaders have expressed an interest in surrendering the responsibility, and the church has agreed to hand over to the city a fund containing more than $27,000 that is dedicated to maintenance of the burial ground.
On Tuesday, aldermen unanimously accepted the funds and the task, although some question marks remain on how it will be performed. City Manager Mel Hawley said it will not necessarily be as simple as adding the job to the Department of Public Works’ punch list.
“Cemeteries are time-consuming from a maintenance point of view,” Hawley said.
The fund will help pay for contracted maintenance, however, and the historic nature of the cemetery could help attract community volunteers, Hawley said.
“It’s so historic people may actually have an interest in taking care of it,” he said. 
In November, resident Sue Ferland, who researched the issue because of her concern over cemetery maintenance (its fencing is deteriorating, among other issues), told aldermen some of the city’s founding figures, including Samuel Strong, and many War of 1812 veterans are buried there. Ferland also confirmed the city’s ownership of the cemetery.
In other business on Tuesday, aldermen:
•  Welcomed new members Bill Benton and Renny Perry, who were given materials on possible new police station sites and asked to rank them, as have incumbent members in recent weeks. The police station issue will be discussed at the council’s April 10 meeting.
•  Re-elected Randall Ouellette as the council’s senior alderman.
•  Heard from planning commission chairman Shannon Haggett that about two dozen residents attended a Monday hearing on proposed new zoning regulations. Planners intend to consider that testimony and forward a version of the laws to aldermen before April 10. Aldermen will hold at least one public hearing, possibly on May 1, on the long-awaited zoning update before they are adopted. They include new regulations for downtown and North Main Street.
•  Were told by Hawley that he will miss time in late May and June for knee surgery, and that the budget process will begin early this year. Aldermen have until the end of June to adopt a 2012-2013 budget and municipal tax rate. Hawley said he hopes to return by late June to wrap up the process.
•  Heard from Hawley that no rate hikes are planned for users of the city pool this summer.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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