Cemetery may be relocated after damaged from Florence

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Soil shifting due to excessive rain has damaged the Elizabethtown Cemetery. (Photo: Matt Bennett/WWAY)

ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WWAY) — Will hundreds of graves in Bladen County have to be moved? That was one option discussed at a town hall meeting Monday afternoon, regarding a cemetery damaged by Hurricane Florence.

“What happens if somebody dies before the town board reaches a decision, and you already have a plot there?” asked lifetime Elizabethtown resident Ellen Bryan.

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Bryan voiced several concerns at a town hall meeting Monday to discuss the fate of the Elizabethtown Cemetery.

Both of her parents are buried there.

“I have a lot right beside my parents and I could be buried there maybe at a later date,” said Bryan.

Town Manager Eddie Madden says all of the rain we received in Florence caused soil at the cemetery to shift, cracking a road that runs through it.

Three options were discussed.

The first is to do some superficial repairs, the second is to add drainage systems, and the third and most expensive option is to move all graves to a new cemetery near the airport.

“We’ll be meeting with FEMA between now and the end of the fiscal year to determine fund availability, and how we can best approach this problem,” said Madden.

Madden says FEMA will only fund a project once, so they want it to be a long term solution.

The most permanent solution might be to develop a new cemetery near the airport, and move the approximately 275 graves.

“I would support that, [but] that’s not really where I would want to be buried,” said Bryan.

Madden says they wanted to make sure the community was able to weigh in before they made any decisions, and he feels the response was terrific.

“It’s a very sensitive issue for everyone, we’re trying to be respectful,” said Madden.

The board plans to discuss this again on February 19, and expects to make a decision by June 30.

As far as any burials between now and then, an engineer said those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.