DALTON, Ga. — Dalton Public Works Department Director Andrew Parker said Monday the department could repair crumbling stonework in masonry in city-owned West Hill Cemetery. But he said that because many of the damaged and decaying walls and steps are in a historic district he'd like to work with experts in historic preservation to develop a plan to address that work.
"We could bring on a consultant who could help us develop a plan and we could contact if we have questions as we proceed with the work," Parker said. "That would be one option. Another would be that the Dalton Historic Preservation Commission could help us develop guidelines and make recommendations about individual repairs.
Parker spoke at a meeting of the Dalton Public Works Committee, which includes council members Tyree Goodlett and Annalee Harlan. A story in the weekend edition of the Daily Citizen-News showed how a number of walls in the cemetery, especially in the area around the chapel, have crumbled.
"As I explained to the newspaper, those walls were privately constructed and our ordinance is very clear that it is the burden of the heirs and family to maintain them," he said. "But sometimes those family members move away or die out and there is no one left to maintain them. State law does allow the city to go in and repair those walls."
Parker said the city could bill family members for the repairs if any could be identified, but he said the oldest sections of the cemetery date to the 1800s and it would likely be difficult to identify family members.
He said that ideally any repairs would be funded by the private sector, similar to a fundraising effort in 2018 that raised money to place headstones on graves on the children and infants paupers section of the cemetery.
Kathryn Sellers, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, noted that the area around the chapel, both to the east and the west, is a historic district and the city could be eligible for state and federal grants to fund a master plan for that district. That plan would include an assessment of the conditions of the cemetery, locating unmarked graves, a plan for fixing masonry and improving the entrances to the cemetery on Emery and Cuyler streets.
Patty Wofford Marshall spoke to the committee, asking if the city could help repair a dilapidated set of steps on C.E. Whitener Street that lead to the Wofford family plot.
"That (plot) dates back to the 1800s," she said. "Those steps were difficult to climb when I was a child because they were so steep. You can't climb them at all now."
She said the family could not afford to pay to repair them.
"There's only two of us left now, a cousin and me," she said.
While no formal vote was taken, there seemed to be a consensus that the city should look at applying for grants for a master plan for the cemetery.
Sellers said the grants are typically opened in November or December and the applications are due in January or February, so officials need to begin gathering the data they need to prepare their application.