Residents upset with missing flowers, grounds at Fort Valley cemeteries

FORT VALLEY, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — Fort Valley residents say flowers are missing from headstones, and the grounds are unkept at three Fort Valley cemeteries. 

“I’m not accusing anyone of stealing or being a thief,” said Peach county resident Vonda Smith.

Smith says her husband died in the early 90’s, and has been going to Oaklawn Cemetery to visit him ever since.

Smith says when she first laid him to rest the cemetery was beautiful with cut grass, flowers and headstone ornaments. But recently things have gone missing and grass is overgrown.

“I don’t know if it’s the people that are cleaning up the cemetery, I’m not sure whose removing them but I think removing the flowers are kinda disrespectful. I think that should be up the family,” said Smith.

Teresa Averett says she’s angry because she has 7 family members buried at Oaklawn, and has never had flowers removed until recently.

Fort Valley Administrator, Raphael Maddox, says missing flowers can be the result of unpredictable weather if they are not properly secured. 

“They should be either tied to the headstone or either use an anchor to anchor them around the burial plot,” said Maddox.

Averett says that isn’t the case. She says her family’s headstones have a compartment to prevent flowers blowing away. She thinks the flowers were physically removed.

“Im offended the city of Fort Valley took it upon themselves,” said Averett.

According to Averett, she placed flowers on the sites in June. When she returned August 11, nothing was there. So she reached out to the city Public Works Director. 

“Never did I receive an answer. Just an apology that he was sorry. And he took photos of my receipts and was supposed to be getting me a check for my family’s plot out there and I haven’t heard back from him,” explained Averett.

Maddox says if flowers are beginning to look old, the cleaning crew will remove them.

According to both women, they have never received a policy or rules of the cemetery, and feel the decision to remove flowers or anything else from a grave should be left up to the family.

Maddox says the city has a crew that maintains all three cemeteries on a weekly basis.

“They may go out there and take a picture Monday and our rotation day is Thursday,” the city administrator.

Maddox says the city is currently updating the cemetery policy so residents will know what to expect. He adds high quality items like vases are sometimes stolen, and the city can’t do anything about it because it’s a public cemetery.

If residents have complaints or concerns regarding the cemeteries, call Fort Valley City Hall at (478) 825-8261.

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