By Alison James
Since mid-December, a city ordinance that would raise cemetery lot rates and opening and closing costs has been off and on the table at city council meetings. Tuesday the ordinance was adopted in 3-2 split, with council members Dozier Smith T, David Canon and President Eddie Smith voting for, and councilmembers Patsy Jones and Larry Gray voting against.
Jones, in fact, voted against even removing the ordinance from the table.
“I would like us to reconsider,” Jones said. She said, although the increases have been touted as a way to better cover costs, the city’s approved budget had not shown a deficit. The time to set a budget for a new year is fast approaching, Jones said, suggesting any sort of increase be put off until that time.
Jones compared Opelika’s cemetery rates to Auburn’s cemetery rates and found Auburn’s to be much lower.
“I’ve had citizens throughout our city call me, and I don’t feel very comfortable trying to justify what I’ve been told (about the need to raise rates),” Jones said. “Many of the people who have called me have been on fixed income and have made statements that that’s just very costly … I can’t conscientiously feel comfortable voting for such an increase.”
Smith T offered an alternative view.
“Comparing to Auburn … It’s hard for me to know what another city does and how they arrange their dollars and what they charge for their services. They could be doing things in a different way than us,” Smith T said. “We haven’t raised rates in six years, I believe, and what this increase amounts to just less than 2 percent increase a year, which I think is very reasonable.”
The ordinance was adopted, and the increase will go into effect immediately.
The council also:
– reappointed Wayne Gibson to the Property Maintenance Board of Appeals and Joyce Cahela to the Mental Health Board.
– offered special appropriations to Keep Opelika Beautiful, the American Cancer Society and OHS HOSA.
– awarded a bid for the purpose of maintenance of IBM hardware and software.
– approved an agreement to extend the contract between the city and AT&T for interconnectivity to continue to operate phone systems.
– heard the mayor make proclamations for National Service Recognition Day, Donate Life Month and OHS Leadership Day, recognizing those involved in each effort.
– heard the mayor recognize Exchange Club Officer of the Year Alfred White and the Keep Opelika Beautiful Yard of the Year winners in each ward.
– approved a request by Opelika Main Street regarding an outdoor concert April 15.
Editor’s note: To read the cemetery ordinance in its entirety, turn to A5 for the legal notice.