By PAUL SIMS
Crews recently took down most of the fences surrounding Oddfellows Cemetery, a move one official says will improve the property’s aesthetic qualities.
On March 1, the Starkville Board of Aldermen authorized in-kind services to remove fences and stumps at the cemetery and agreed to pay for and install bollards – or posts – at points of entry at a cost of $4,669.19.
A few years back, crews removed the fence on the University Drive side and the change “ improved the view into the the cemetery and the general aesthetic,” said Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas.
There are instances across the country and world “where people can enjoy and respect these places. I’m not trying ot change the paradigm in Starkville by any means but this is a very visible site and I don’t want an old, chain link fence around a city property to be the symbol by which people associate public places with the city of Starkville,” Dumas said.
On Fellowship Street and University Drive, all chain-link gates will remain but the Jarnigan Street fence will remain and its gates will remain closed and locked, Dumas said. Florence Box, the current president of the Starkville Cemetery Association, said there were some concerns about the general appearance on the Jarningan side.
One person expressed concern at the change after first hearing about it Wednesday afternoon.
Patricia McCarthy’s son, Ali Patrick Mohammadi-Aragh, is buried in the cemetery.
There has been access to the cemetery but “you can’t walk through completely,” she said.
She’s encountered problems with litter around her son’s grave. “There was stuff I had to clean” off of it, McCarthy said.
A lot less damage took place “when access was restricted,” McCarthy said.
She also held concerns that the cemetery would be opened to through traffic.
But the bollards will be a measure in place to prevent this.
“That will eliminate people using it to drive through from one side of the cemetery to the other,” said Box.
“The same people who have access now to open gates will have the ability to remove these bollards for funerals. This will give them the ability to lock every vehicular entrance as well as remove the bollards but it’s doing so in a much cleaner, more aesthetic way,” Dumas said. “From my perspective it already looks better. Once the bollards are in place I think it will put the finishing touch on it.”
The cemetery group conducts such work as raking leaves, making sure memorials are not left to deteriorate and picking up limbs, Box said.
“I think we were all in agreement that the fence was in bad shape. There was erosion around the posts and some were just hanging there in the air. The fence was rusty and bent. This will improve the looks of the cemetery,” she said. “We did have concerns about the cemetery being misused. We are willing to try this at the recommendation of the city hoping that things will not be destroyed or vandalized,” she said. “We would encourage people to walk though the cemetery as a peaceful area in the midst of the city.”
Dumas said officials do want to keep an eye on it.
“We want to monitor this to see if there is any change in adverse activity and obviously if there proves to be some we will take appropriate action to remedy it,” Dumas said.
Bill Poe, has lived in the area for 46 years, before the time it became known as the Cotton District.
“I think a cemetery can be used as a city park. If the roads are blocked then that protection would still be there,” Poe said. “I think it was a good thing, what they did. I’ve heard so many people say it’s nice to see into the cemetery.”
The cemetery association calls Bill Green the business manager. His title with the city is hearing enforcement administrator and one of his duties is to manage the cemeteries.
“I would like to see a fence there but I would rather see a decorative fence rather than a utility fence,” he said, adding, “purely for aesthetics.”
Green says he believes “the city’s stance is if anything happens in the future they would consider putting a fence back up but there no plans for one.”