Zachary mayor says city to helpĀ improve privately owned cemetery

Advocate staff photo by JAMES MINTONA rotting tree trunk, pieces of broken headstones, concrete and trash partially cover a burial vault in Zachary Public Cemetery at the intersection of La. 64 and La. 964 in Zachary. The Zachary City Council heard complaints Tuesday about the cemetery's operation and  the condition of some of its graves.
Advocate staff photo by JAMES MINTONA rotting tree trunk, pieces of broken headstones, concrete and trash partially cover a burial vault in Zachary Public Cemetery at the intersection of La. 64 and La. 964 in Zachary. The Zachary City Council heard complaints Tuesday about the cemetery's operation and the condition of some of its graves.

The city is committed to doing whatever it can to help improve the condition of Zachary Public Cemetery, which is privately owned, Mayor David Amrhein said Tuesday.

The mayor’s comment came after the City Council heard from Carolyn Jacobi, the CEO and founder of Eternal Justice of Maryland, regarding the property.

The condition of the cemetery at La. 64 and La. 964 came to her attention after a local monument dealer discovered that family members were unable to find the graves of their loved ones, Jacobi said.

Jacobi said she inspected the site and found open, sunken and unmarked graves on the property. She also said she believes that caskets have been buried on top of each other.

She produced receipts she said showed that family members had been charged $600 for a “grave and the opening and closing of the grave.”

Jacobi told the council that she will stay in Louisiana until the matter is resolved.

“I have never seen such a deplorable site. Sweet Olive Cemetery in Baton Rouge is nearly as bad,” she said.

Bobby Snowden, of the Zachary Public Cemetery Maintenance Commission, said people had never been charged for plots in the cemetery, which, he said, has been in operation since 1926.

“It costs us $1,200 to cut the grass out there. That money’s got to come from somewhere,” he said.

Attorney John Hopewell said the city’s authority is limited regarding the cemetery. He said the city has already completed work in the ditch to improve drainage, but it is not allowed to do much more since the cemetery is private property.

He added that the Louisiana Cemetery Board might be able to exert some authority in the matter.

“I’m not in the blame game,” the mayor said. “I’m in the fixing game. Working together, we can fix it.”