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‘Please do something’; families ask Petersburg to maintain cemetery

Posted at 6:08 PM, Jul 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-24 18:08:02-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- The city of Petersburg told us back in May that crews would be cutting the grass at the Blandford Cemetery in July, but the property is still full of overgrown grass. Frustrated family members say that they are having to tackle a problem that they thought would be taken care of through Perpetual Care.

When Bill Overby laid his mother to rest in the Blandford Cemetery, he said he expected the city of Petersburg to cut the grass around his mother's plot, as part of the upkeep of the nearly 175-acre property. But after reading complaints about the grass at the cemetery on social media, Overby made a special trip to Blandford on Monday.

"I really wanted to see actually how bad it was, as you can see, it's up to my knees," Overby said.

Some people have taken the situation into their own hands and have started to cut the grass around their family plots. But for Overby, who has been in a wheelchair for four decades, cutting the grass around his mother's grave is impossible.

"If I could do it, if I could take a lawn mower and cut it, obviously, I can't," he explained. "We laid them to rest at what we think is going to be a nice place, to respect them, and this is not respect."

Alfred Elmore is one of many who have taken on the responsibility of maintaining their family plots.

"It's a sad situation. The City has basically given up on it. It's family and you want to take care of it," Elmore said.

Stephen Beasley has also been cutting the grass around his family plot for years.

"The grass is far beyond being kept as you would think," Beasley explained.

But Greg Gwaltney says that while he has chosen to take care of his family plot himself, the city hasn't stopped taking care of the property completely.

"I see the City or whoever's cutting. I see it being done, from time to time, and it seems like a hit or miss thing," said Gwaltney.

But the City's recent attempts to cut the grass at the cemetery have actually resulted in damage to the land.

Donny Hicks, who volunteers at Blandford Cemetery, says looking at the cemetery broke his heart, "The grass was still green underneath the block, so I knew it had to the very last time they cut it."

Some family members have a simple message for the City.

"There was at one time a Perpetual Care Fund, of course, I have no idea where that may be at this time," Beasley said.

For Overby, who just wants his mother's grave and the graves of everyone else who was laid to rest here to be given the respect they deserve, he asks the staff of Petersburg, "Please do something."

We reached out to the City of Petersburg, and they provided us with the following statement:

"Effective, July 24, 2017 the Public Works Department has 8 employees dedicated to the upkeep of the Blandford and Peoples Cemeteries. They will be working Monday-Friday 6:30 am-1:30 pm. The City Manager has directed the Chief Procurement Officer to solicit emergency quotes from qualified contractors for the solely upkeep of the Blandford Cemetery to review the most efficient and cost effective solution."

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