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Community concerns grow over condition of Pelham Cemetery

Posted at 10:16 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 22:23:18-04

PELHAM, Ga. (WTXL) — Sunken graves with exposed caskets, trees are overgrown on top of plots, and water filling up open graves. For weeks, people who live in the area have been calling on the city to do something about it. That's the condition of the Pelham Cemetery on Liberia Street in Mitchell County.

"It doesn't look like a cemetery at all," said Teresa Jones. Her grandfather is buried there, but she can't find where, because his headstone is now covered by trees and vines that have taken over the entire back part of Pelham Cemetery.

Jones said, "I haven't found him yet but I know he's out here somewhere."

Former city worker, William Almond, took care of the maintenance at the cemetery...a job he says was made dangerous due to the weeds and overgrowth. Another concern, fear of tractors falling into the sinking ground. Almond said "they could be cracked, caved in, missing, so safety is a big issue when you're trying to upkeep this graveyard… it's graves out there that are lost per se because of neglect."

People who live in this community like Teresa Jones say they're upset that peoples' loved ones are not getting the respect they deserve. She said, "it's ridiculous how this graveyard is like I told you even a set of mattresses out here."

The city manager of Pelham, Craig Bennett, said the city is in charge of managing the grounds…taking care of the grass, weeds, and trees. He says for years the cemetery was once the responsibility of community churches and the city took it over before he started 3 years ago. The city manager knows there are a lot of plots in serious disrepair and says that is traditionally the family's responsibility but will continue to work on fixing what he can. Bennett said, "we have actually done a lot with the property itself to try and regain that property, it's going to take a community effort with the city in the lead."

The city manager says he's going to work with the state to see if they can secure funding since it can be considered a historical cemetery. Bennett said, "before the fact that we dealt with a hurricane, tornado, and a pandemic now, we made some initial contacts with the state because there are offices because of historical reasons and whatnot that will assist." The city manager does not​ have an exact time frame on when any potential historical funding will come.