Those wishing to place flowers on the graves of loved ones at the Great Bend Cemetery for Memorial Day will have an extra week to do so, the Great Bend City Council decided Monday night.
The council acted on a recommendation from the Cemetery Board which held a six-minute special meeting last Thursday called to discuss the emotional issue. The board recommended allowing flowers to be placed beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday of the weekend one week prior to Memorial Day.
Under the old rules, no decorations could be placed on a gravesite prior to noon on the Thursday preceding Memorial Day. However, even under the new guidelines, all decorations must be removed by 8 a.m. on the Monday following the holiday,
“A lot of people were upset about this,” said Great Bend resident Brock McPherson. It was McPherson who first sought policy change last year.
He had decorated his wife’s grave a week before Memorial Day. But, the flowers were gone by the following week.
City officials have said flowers on the ground are removed when it’s time to mow so the grass will be freshly cut in time for Memorial Day. The staff doesn’t disturb flowers in vases or attached containers on stones.
McPherson presented a petition with 517 signatures, all supporting the extension.
He said he was frustrated with the actions of the council and city officials. “I was of the opinion that you people here were the city.”
But, he said, despite the overwhelming number of petition signatories, nothing was changed. “I’m sorry I had to bring this to the newspaper to get any action,” he said, referring to previous articles and letters to the editor in the Great Bend Tribune.
“This totally was not handled correctly,” said Councilman Dana Dawson. “It’s actions like this that make people suspicious of us.”
He also had sharp words for city employees who mow the cemetery. “A little common sense would have avoided all of this.”
It was inconsiderate of those cutting the grass to throw away what were obviously new flowers. “Perhaps they need and different job.”
Ray Davidson of Great Bend also supported the new policy, but said he appreciated all that the city staff does. Making everybody happy is a difficult task.
McPherson was unsuccessful in his attempt to get the issue on the city council agenda for the May 4 meeting. However, Dawson brought the subject up at that meeting, and then McPherson was allowed to speak.
The city council earlier asked the cemetery board to make a recommendation, and on Feb. 26 the board recommended action that matched McPherson’s petition. However, city administrators went to the next cemetery board meeting at the end of March and explained staff concerns about mowing.
The cemetery board ended up agreeing not to recommend any changes to the city council. Because the cemetery board did not have a recommendation to change the policy, it was not brought back for council approval.
But, Dawson said at the time the city council should have a say in the policy
At the May 4 City Council meeting, city staff was instructed to ask the Cemetery Board to hold the special meeting.