City of Galax to take ownership of cemetery in decline

GALAX, Va. (WDBJ7) - Galax City staff will undertake a new business. They're taking over ownership and maintenance of a cemetery that's been the subject of complaints for years.

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At the Monta Vista Cemetery in Galax, City Council member Beth White can say a quiet hello to her grandma and grandpa.

"They're buried in this corner of the cemetery," she said, "right between the trees and the potholes."

White and others have, for years, noticed a gradual decline in the care and upkeep of the cemetery by its private ownership, one which lost its cemetery license from the state in 2017.

"It makes you feel like your loved ones are not being cared for or that their resting place is not being cared for," she said.

That's why the City is getting involved.

"It is the last resting place of a loved one, so it's a very personal issue," said City Manager Keith Barker. "It's a very caring issue and its something that folks have to realize and that we have to recognize also."

The City of Galax is officially taking ownership of the cemetery.
Barker said Monday they're finalizing paperwork on the agreement with the owner.

WDBJ7 spoke with the owner, who was on site Monday. He declined to comment on the affair, but Barker says they're waiving the $130,000 wed in taxes as part of the agreement.

"We felt that working with the owner was the most advantageous way to do it." Barker said, noting that this agreement had been in the works for years.

Crews will soon get to work and next week the city will amend its budget to allow for maintenance. The City will also take possession of the $60,000 perpetual care fund that Barker said they'll use for mowers, staff and other equipment to keep up the site. Soon they'll be selling new plots, which Barker said the former owner hadn't done for years.

It is a plan city leaders say will make things better for residents present and past, who they promise can rest easy.

"Ultimately we want to do well by our citizens, and that's our number one goal," said White.

White and Barker said additional details about the site will become available in the next several weeks.

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