Cemetery board digs into business

MONTE VISTA— The Monte Vista Cemetery Board of Directors met on Thursday, Feb. 22 for their monthly meeting. The board did not have a quorum present to make official motions but discussed several important items of business vital to the function of the cemetery.

While reviewing the meeting minutes from January, the board noted they recently received a grant from the Ralph Outcalt Foundation for $10,000, which they greatly appreciated and plan on putting to the best use possible, beginning with removal of some dead trees for a $4,300 expense. The board also had a list of needs posted on the wall with each need listed with a ranking of “Nice,” “Important” and “Essential,” the latter of which included the tree removal and a new mower, among other priorities.

Chair Charles Spielman presented a new format for the 2018 finances, which compares expenses and the budget to the 2017 costs and the previously approved 2018 budget. Board member Kirk Thompson suggested completing a mid-year review, which the other members agreed with.

The board postponed voting on their drafted bylaws and handbook due to the lack of quorum but Spielman pointed out the importance of the handbook for regular cemetery business. Thompson agreed, adding the handbook lays out the rules and the rationale behind how the cemetery is kept, explaining for example, why someone can’t cover their plot with rocks. “The handbook helps reduce conflict,” and explains costs and standards and why their universal application within the cemetery is necessary for its function and maintaining uniformity.

Spielman also discussed the serious savings which volunteer labor often brings, both when volunteers help to open/close graves and when volunteers come to help clean up and maintain the cemetery, noting that some of the latter efforts are more successful than others. Spielman stated this previous summer Sheriff Brian Norton brought five volunteers from the Rio Grande County Jail to help with cemetery maintenance and the effort was very successful. Spielman explained the volunteers “worked hard, seemed to enjoy it and did a great job.”

Spielman and the board expressed their appreciation to Norton for organizing the effort and inquired about the possibility of repeating the effort. Norton explained he can only use the inmates in the jail who have already been sentenced and are usually serving roughly 60-90 day sentences, typically only about five out of the 55 inmates housed in the jail, although the jail currently has about 65 inmates. Norton noted those inmates are quite often willing to volunteer their help at the cemetery because they prefer getting out and accomplishing something to sitting in the jail all day and he would be happy to accommodate future requests. 

The board discussed fundraising efforts with Spielman presenting a prototype binder he composed, which includes a history of the cemetery in it along with a CD that contains the complete cemetery registry as well as instructions on how to read and sort the registry data. Spielman stated the cost to assemble the book is roughly seven to eight dollars and it could easily sell for about 30. His goal is to sell about 500 copies of the binder this year. Cemetery volunteer Laurie Ellithorpe pointed out some people may not be willing to purchase an archive because of findagrave.com providing free access to much of the same information. Thompson stated while findagrave.com does have some of the Monte Vista Cemetery’s burials, he has helped upload several of them and has found the site to be very incomplete compared to their official record, which despite some minor inaccuracies and the lack of information on the “Potters Field” section of the cemetery, is about 80 to 90 percent accurate. Ellithorpe stated she uses the site for her work with the Historical Society and believes findagrave has a very thorough record of the cemetery, implying uncertainty as to the number of archive binders the cemetery board could sell.

Before the meeting adjourned, McClung noted Kathy Ellithorpe, Scott Deacon and herself had saved the cemetery a considerable amount of money in the last month. They volunteered their time to handle two cremation burial openings and closings as well as a full-body closing. With the immense cost of the grave openings and closings, McClung stated she believed it was important to note their efforts for the betterment of the cemetery on the record and the board members very much agreed and thanked her for her labor and dedication and noted their thanks for Ellithorpe and Deacon.


The Monte Vista Cemetery Board of Directors meets the fourth Thursday of every month at 121 Adams Street and accordingly their next meeting will be March 22 at 5:30 p.m.

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