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Clinton Herald
September 7, 2007

By Danica Baker
Herald Staff Writer

— CLINTON A local woman wants to make sure older cemeteries located in Clinton County are preserved for future generations.

Ruth Wilson, Clinton County chairwoman of Historical Preservation, addressed the Clinton County Board of Supervisors this week to update the board on the progress of restoration efforts at the Smithtown Church. She said the church received new windows and doors and a new coat of exterior paint earlier this year and in the last two weeks, stairway handrailings have been installed. She said the next step is to improve the interior of the building.

Wilson added the Grand Mound Fire Station has received some statewide recognition and said two representatives from the state historical office visited in June amid concerns the building would be torn down.

She said many hope restoration of the building will begin before the fire station celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. Wilson advised that the Wheatland Hotel now is on the national registry of historic places.

She thanked the board for sponsoring trips to the State Association for the Preservation of Iowa Cemeteries and said she was amazed at the passion of people for restoring pioneer cemeteries. Wilson advised the group has workdays and cleans up a cemetery, including resetting tombstones on reinforced foundations.

They do all this actual work to restore these cemeteries so that they will not be lost forever, she said.

Wilson recounted that in April, she attended a panel discussion on counties that have established pioneer cemetery commissions. Wilson explained a pioneer cemetery is defined as a cemetery that has had six or fewer burials in the last 50 years. She said 26 pioneer cemeteries have been identified in Clinton County and eight more are being investigated. Wilson said three of the cemeteries are in desperate need of cleanup efforts.

Wilson distributed copies of ordinances from other Iowa counties that created a county pioneer cemetery commission and said she would like to see a commission created in Clinton County. She advised that most commissions have nine members, but she would be happy to see six people volunteer to serve on the commission. Wilson said she would like to set up a meeting and invite any interested members of the public to attend and learn more about the cemeteries, especially representatives of burial monument businesses.

She said she needs to research how to get more funding for the pioneer cemetery restoration effort. Clinton County Auditor Charlie Sheridan said if the cemetery is a township cemetery, the township trustees are responsible for application of a levy to provide for the cemetery's upkeep. He said there is a cemetery levy available through the county that can be used to pay for repair and maintenance of the cemeteries, if not regulated by a township. Sheridan said the 6.75 cents per 1,000 dollars assessed levy is applied countywide and funds are divided among the cemeteries in the county.

He commented that Wilson may want to look into lobbying the state legislature into raising the levy, as it has remained static for many years.

Board Chairwoman Jill Davisson said County Attorney Mike Wolf would be consulted regarding adapting an ordinance or resolution to provide for a Clinton County pioneer cemetery commission. She asked Wilson to set a date for an informational meeting for later this fall.

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