Dirt removed for gravesites will no longer be placed in piles near the back of Cedar Grove Cemetery after an incident city officials say taught them a valuable lesson.
On Tuesday, Mattie Mitchell, whose grandparents are buried at the historic black cemetery, cleaned the headstones of three graves onto which city officials said dirt had drifted from one of two piles.
“They shouldn’t have been buried twice,” Mitchell said.
Most of the dirt was being moved Tuesday to another city cemetery, said Darrell Bennett, who is in charge of cemetery maintenance since the work was reassigned to the Recreation, Parks and Facilities Department last year.
The dirt can’t be used as regular fill dirt for other city projects, Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan said. In 2006, bones were found in cemetery dirt that was used as filler for a gravel parking lot during the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival.
Mitchell and Earl Pinkerton’s complaints in a news story Monday caught the attention of District 1 Commissioner Matt Aitken, who is in a runoff battle with retired health educator Bill Fennoy. Both Fennoy and Aitken appeared at a news conference Tuesday at the cemetery.
“Dirt was covered on a grave, and we apologize to everyone that was involved,” Aitken said. “We’re doing a corrective action right now. We definitely want to make sure we give dignity to those that have passed
on in this cemetery, and in every cemetery.”
Fennoy said he was “glad the city has decided to step up and do something about the situation” and commented on a hole in the ground between two nearby graves.
“When citizens see something like this, they should report it to the proper authorities and try to get something done about it,” Fennoy said. “Almost every day, you’re going to have somebody come down here, and they don’t want to have a situation like that.”
Bennett said some of the dirt will be used to fill the hole Fennoy mentioned. He said the holes can appear quickly.