Time and the elements have taken their toll on masonry and stonework in some parts of Dalton's West Hill Cemetery.

And city officials say they are looking at what they can do to address the damage.

A recent walk around the cemetery showed crumbling mortar and missing rocks and bricks in some of the stone walls around plots and family sections of the cemetery, as well as a section of stairs on C.E. Whitener Drive that has fallen apart.

The City of Dalton owns the cemetery.

Public Works Director Andrew Parker says "most of the masonry walls and coping within West Hill Cemetery are privately owned as they were installed by lot owners or their families."

"Historically, the city has relied on heirs of the deceased to maintain the improvements (e.g. walls, coping, headstones, etc.) on family plots since they are privately owned and were not installed by the city originally," Parker said in an email. "Due to the passage of time, the ownership of a plot and identity of the owner/heir is not always clear and very little contact information is available for the city to locate next of kin of the deceased. This is especially true in the older sections of the historic cemetery which date back to the early 1800s. Most of the time when family members are still around and damage occurs to the improvements on their family plots, they have willingly come in and repaired as needed to correct various issues."

In fact, city ordinance says that the "city disclaims all responsibility for loss or damage from causes beyond its reasonable control and especially from damage caused by the elements, an act of God, common enemy, thieves, vandals, strikers, malicious mischief makers, explosions, unavoidable accidents, invasions, insurrections, riots or order of any military or civil authority, whether the damage be direct or collateral."

But Parker said state law does allow the city "to intervene when a cemetery or burial ground has been abandoned or where damage has been caused by either vandalism or erosion."

The city could seek reimbursement from the owner for any repairs it performs.

Parker plans to ask the city's Public Works Committee if members are interested in doing anything about damaged or degraded masonry in older sections of the cemetery were family members of those buried there can't be found.

"Ideally, it would helpful to establish a nonprofit historical restoration community group to support the maintenance and repair of monuments," Parker said.

He said it could be similar to an effort by private individuals to fund markers for children buried in the child paupers section of the cemetery in 2018.

The Public Works Committee meets Monday at noon at the Public Works Department, 535 Elm St.

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