City temporarily bans Burials on Harleaux

Deidre Cruse

The Plaquemine Board of Selectmen last week voted 4-2 for a temporary ban on burials at four cemeteries on W. W. Harleaux Boulevard.

Funeral homes who get requests for burials in Homestead, Sally Parker, Magnolia and Laboring Sisters cemeteries will have to call City Hall first, Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta said.

Gulotta he decided to ask for a temporary moratorium, rather than a permanent one, on the burials after hearing from residents who might be affected by the move.

At last week’s meeting, resident Helen Harmason, who lives near Magnolia Cemetery, told the city council that she wants to be buried in there with her relatives. The graveyard has been there for some 65 years, since she was a child, she said.

“I don’t have the money to go to Grace Memorial,” Harmason said, adding that she wanted to be buried with her grandson who had been killed.

Hurricane Gustav damaged the cemeteries, and uncovered some tombs. No one has stepped forward to rectify the damage, the mayor said. The proposed resolution also said the cemeteries have been “generally unkempt, as well as no longer having adequate space for burials.”

After Gustav, the city did take some action, including covering the affected tombs with tarps, but is banned from doing further work at the private cemeteries.

“I looked at it as a public health issue,” the mayor said, adding that “we need to fine the people who are collecting the money” and who are supposed to be maintaining the cemeteries.

Gulotta said he wants to contact local funeral homes to see if there is “a temporary way to cover up the tombs that were uncovered till the families decide what to do with them.”

He also proposed holding volunteers’ clean-up day in March or April, and to seek donated services for stump removal.

“We’ve got four cemeteries here, and I guarantee that you got people who expect to be buried there,” said Selectman Timothy L. Martinez. “...If it were my loved one, I would have a big problem [with the moratorium].”

Martinez and Selectman Jimmie Randle were the two members voting against the moratorium. Selectmen Lindon A. Rivet, Oscar S. Mellion, Ralph J. Stassi Jr. and Michael W. “Mickey” Rivet voted for it.

“It’s not a popular thing, but it’s the right thing to do,” Mellion said.