MILTON — In a surprise move, the entire Milton Cemetery Board resigned during the July 1 city council meeting citing a letter written by Councilwoman Shannon Rice as their reason.
In her letter, Rice addressed questions and concerns she had about the cemetery including the cemetery's continuing to operate at a $20,000 loss per year while neighboring cemeteries operate at a profit, and a recent land sale by the cemetery.
"This conversation is not now, nor never has been about supporting the Milton Cemetery Board or the importance of keeping up cemeteries," Rice said in her letter. "My concern has been and remains 100 percent about the care, long term support and proper management of the cemetery."
Rice said she has repeatedly asked for answers to her questions from the board and has never received answers and instead has been accused of trying to create a problem, which she said make her "more suspicious than anything."
One concern Rice said she has is the fact that the Milton Historic Benevolent Association is still listed at the owner of the cemetery instead of the city. She said to date the city manager has not been able to provide documentation stating the association has been dissolved and its assets have become part of the city's.
"I have not been provided any documents Milton Benevolent Cemetery Association is in some form also the City of Milton," Rice said. "There should be some document stating such."
If Milton does own the cemetery, Rice said she believes the city should take complete management over it, or possibly hire a management company to manage it "more efficiently."
"This is serious business and should be managed as such," Rice said. "As it is being managed now, no plan for future sustainability or success is outlined."
Pamela Mitchell, former chairman of the Cemetery Board, said after Bill Bledsoe’s death in 2017, the board continued to operate under the bylaws that were established in 2004.
"The board was not made aware by city staff that some provisions of the board’s bylaws were not in agreement with the ordinance that established the board in 2002," Mitchell said. "Rather than giving the board the opportunity to work with staff and the city attorney to remedy this (as was voted on unanimously by the council on June 20) Councilwoman Rice chose to send (an) accusatory and defamatory letter to the other council members. The cemetery board stands by its’ record of service and dedication to the community. Our records are an open book. They were provided to Ms. Rice in the spring at the onset of her 'expedition' to investigate the cemetery."
Mitchell said the cemetery board regrets that the environment at the city was such that they could not continue to do what they believed in.
"We hope that the citizens see that we left the cemetery in better condition than we found it," Mitchell said. "All comments and concerns should be directed to the City of Milton at 850-983-5410."