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City wants court to decide cemetery issue

Published: Friday, November 16, 2007 9:15 AM CST

By Jeff Lundquist
NT Editor

ATLANTIC - Atlantic city officials say they want a court to decide who is responsible for maintaining the Southlawn Memorial Garden Cemetery.

City Attorney Brian Daiker told the council Wednesday night that the issue of who’s responsible for maintaining the cemetery needed to be decided once and for all, and that the decision should come from the court.

“I think it would really be something for a judge to decide,” Daiker told the council.

For the past several months county officials have been trying to figure out who was responsible for maintaining the property which had been annexed by the city some time ago. The issue is complicated because some of the property was owned by Jeanne Broderson, who has since died.

In addition Cass County Attorney Dan Feistner had asked the Iowa Insurance Division for an opinion of who was responsible for maintaining what has been called an “abandoned” cemetery.

Feistner said he asked officials what the division’s opinion that the City of Atlantic would have the responsibility to preserve and protect the property as a cemetery, citing an amendment to Iowa Code.

But Daiker disputed, what he called an “informal opinion,” saying Wednesday that the Insurance Division did not have the authority to make that decision. Instead he suggested the county ask the State Attorney General to ask a court to legally determine who is responsible for the property.

He also pointed out that while a government entity, either the county, city of township, must take control of the property, only the county and township are allowed by state law to tax for the maintenance of the property.

Daiker suggested that city officials pursue the matter in court, but at the same time try and reach some kind of sharing agreement with the county for maintaining the property. Daiker said he didn’t know exactly what form that agreement would take. One idea included an arrangement where the county or township would tax for the maintenance and the then have the city do the work.

Daiker said a number of other issues would also have to be resolved once the receivership issue had been settled, including ownership of the property and who, if anyone, would be allowed to sell any empty plots.

Officials Wednesday disputed the idea that the cemetery was abandoned noting that there had been six burials there in the past year, and an average of two per year.

No decisions were made Wednesday and the council is expected to discuss the matter next week.

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