Upset residents blame township officials for disturbed grave sit - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Upset residents blame township officials for disturbed grave sites

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(07/01/14) - Visiting buried friends and relatives at a cemetery can be both emotional and comforting.

But, what if that grave site was disrupted?

However, it's not vandals that some Deerfield Township residents say are disrespecting their loved ones, but the Township itself.

Displaced gravestones and disrupted family plots are at the heart of a feud between Deerfield residents and township officials.

"I'm very upset. We've been dealing with this for so long. It's heartbreaking," said long time resident Connie Gerwolds.

At issue are two concerns. The first is the removal of trees and shrubs at plots, whose roots may displace grave sites and headstones.    

Mary LeFond recently noticed changes at her family plot.

"We had really no idea what they were going to do. We thought, if they cut it down, they cut it down, but then we came back and Thursday it was a stump with a hole. And then, yesterday, it was a gaping hole with things thrown all over," she said. North Branch resident Scott Weathers also commented on the messy state of his father's grave.

"The two shrubs that I had over on my father's grave, tied in my dad, my aunt and my uncle, full grown, they were only a foot and a half to two feet tall tops when they were full grown, those have been ripped out now," he said.

Another issue is the "red-tagging"  of tokens and mementos of love in the form of flags and flowers, as well as other items around a headstone.

"I know if you're building or something, or something is not up to par, they'll "red-tag" you until you repair it and they'll "green-tag" you. I have never heard tell in my life, and I've been here all my life, anyone go through and "red-tag" a cemetery," Gerwolds said. Deefield Township officials say they are just trying to maintain the cemetery.

"We're trying to make the cemetery look nice. There's a problem with trees and we're going to try and correct the problem, " said Debbie Oliver, Deerfield Township clerk.

The Deerfield Township Cemetery is divided into two sections. On the north side of Otter Lake Road is the older section that dates back 150 years. Trees have, over time, moved headstones and other markers. Township officials say they don't want that to happen to the newer part of the cemetery, on the south side of Otter Lake Road.

Still, many questions are left unanswered, leaving residents feeling frustrated.

"People put a lot of time into some of these markers, as far as little flowers and stuff. They're coming out here and ripping everything out. They're stripping it bare," Weathers said.

Residents will get a chance to voice their concerns at the next Deerfield Township board meeting, scheduled for July 12 at 7 p.m.
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