No wonder the Governor is so worried.
Sonoma Valley Sun: With the city’s three cemeteries, Valley Cemetery, Mountain Cemetery and Veterans Memorial Cemetery, currently running in deficit, the city is faced with a decision: should the cemeteries be sold?
In material prepared by Milenka Bates, public works director of the City of Sonoma, the operating fund deficit has reached almost $600,000 and the outstanding debt for construction of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery and Mausoleum is over $840,000. Operating expenses for the three cemeteries is budgeted to run $512,000 annually.
The city council has been concerned with the sustainability of the city’s cemeteries for a number of years, and Bates reported that in Aug. 2005, an action plan was presented to the council, pointing out that the operating shortfall appeared to be due “to lack of inventory and diversity of product.” In Jan. 2006, the council again considered the matter, but has taken no action. The city attorney has provided a legal opinion that the properties can be sold to a private party, provided that they remain in their present use as cemeteries.
It’s only a matter of time before a McMansion gets built overtop. Or, in this market, a trailer park.
The four-acre Valley Cemetery, located on E. MacArthur, was deeded to the city in 1835 by General Vallejo. The 60-acre Mountain Cemetery was founded in 1841 on land deeded by General Vallejo. The 1.6-acre Veterans Memorial Cemetery was acquired in 1996 and developed in 2002. Cemetery staff consists of an administrative services manager, a cemetery supervisor and two maintenance workers (currently one full-time and one part-time)
Mayor Pro Tem Ken Brown said Friday that the council has created an ad hoc committee to study the matter. On the committee, in addition to Brown and Bates, are councilmember August Sebastiani, city historian George McKale, assistant city manager Carol Giovannato, Robert Arnold from the Sonoma Veterans Assoc., and Duffy Conneely from Duggans Mortuary. Since this is not an ordinary business matter for the city, and since families’ memories and loved ones are involved, the committee decided to hold a “town hall meeting” to give the public the opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
No word yet on what happened at the meeting? Or, if there were any, um, unexpected visitors who weighed in.