Seligman cemetery to change hands

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Last month, members of the Seligman Cemetery Association asked the city of Seligman if it would consider taking ownership of the 150-year-old cemetery they have maintained for over 20 years.

The cemetery dates back to to the Civil War era and includes about three acres on one lot and three acres on another vacant lot. At one point in time, the plot of land was a private family cemetery, but later was named the Seligman Cemetery because of its location. However, the city never owned it.

The association had asked the city to take over maintenance of the property because it was becoming too much of a responsibility for current members, both in manpower and funding for maintenance.

The city was open to taking ownership of the cemetery, but there were issues with the title, and who actually owned part of the land, so the city asked the association to complete a title search.

"They sent over the title search we requested at the last meeting to make sure there were no issues or conflicts with a section of the property," said Brian Nichols, Seligman city clerk. "There's a trailer owned by a local individual and the assessor said all of the property belongs to [the association], but the trailer belongs to the individual. He did, in fact, purchase a section of property around that trailer."

The other issue was being able to transfer the title into the city's name because a Chester Browning, who has been deceased for several years, was listed as the owner.

"[Browning] was deceased but was one of the board members," Nichols said. "Any of the board of aldermen sign official documentation, so that's the same thing that's happened there, they just never went in and changed it. Something was just lost along the way.

"So, that's not going to be a conflict. A majority vote of their cemetery board will override that and allow transfer of ownership to the city. For instance, here we have to have a majority vote to sell a vehicle or do anything else."

With those issues clarified, pending some paperwork and no further issues, the city can now move forward with taking ownership.

"I just emailed the title search to our city attorney," Nichols said. "And the assessor has to makes some changes. She has to get that section of property pulled off their property description, as well as build a property description for that individual. Once that gets done, they can sign everything over to the city."

John Deans, association board member and treasurer, told the aldermen there was approximately $1,500 in the association's checking account and $30,000 in CDs, and the cost to mow the property each week comes to about $250. The only other expense, Deans said, is routine maintenance like hauling gravel and repairing fallen limbs.

Nichols said mowing should not be much of an added burden, as the city already has staff to mow.

"It will just be one more area they'll have to mow," he said. "We spend a good two days mowing now, so they should be able to include that in there. Yes, it will be an additional expense, but that's just part of it."

The association had one stipulation in exchange for transferring the property to the city:

"We want to stay as trustees over the property, at least until transfer of ownership is complete," Deans said. "We have all the information in to them now. They're going to have their lawyer look at it and let us know."

Deans said he was a little sad to see the property change hands after being involved with it so long, but agreed it is for the best.

"It's a good thing, but kind of sad," he said. "You feel a little bit of responsibility to it after looking after it for over 20 years, but we will be working with the council during the transition."

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