- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) - Hernando officials say they’re considering changes at city-owned Memorial Park cemetery, from hiring a management firm or a full-time caretaker to selling the property.

“We’ve got to make sure what we do in the future is what’s best for the city and best for the families with loved ones at the cemetery,” said Higdon. “We may decide it’s best to turn it over to someone else to operate or have someone full-time with the city to run it. “And we might recommend getting out of the business of running a cemetery altogether.”

Mayor Chip Johnson told the Commercial Appeal (https://bit.ly/1dhGab3) that reports of irregularities at Memorial Park, including misplaced bodies and exposed caskets, “have been blown out of proportion,” but acknowledged problems. Among those are a burial in the wrong place and a grave that sank over a 2013 burial.

A committee studying the cemetery plans to visit Olive Branch’s city-operated Blocker Cemetery. That city has a cemetery caretaker, while Hernando’s is run by the city parks department.

Some recommendations could be made to the city’s aldermen as early as Tuesday.

Johnson estimated the cemetery’s annual maintenance cost for the city is from $20,000 to $25,000.

The mayor said there “was one incident of a burial in the wrong spot. It was a terrible clerical error on the city’s part, and I take full responsibility - I’m the city chief executive and the buck stops with me.” He declined to name the deceased or the family, “but we resolved the issue with the family.”

Johnson said many issues, such as improperly placed headstones, “are the province of the funeral home and privately employed grave diggers. The city doesn’t do that. But we’ll work to rectify any problems we hear about. One possible solution is allowing only one grave digger at the cemetery.”

Blocker has been linked with Olive Branch since the city’s founding; Memorial Park was deeded to Hernando, founded in 1836, during the 1950s.

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Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com


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