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Macon-Bibb mayor proposes using tax dollars to maintain Riverside, Linwood cemeteries

The resolutions will be discussed in a commission committee on Tuesday

MACON, Ga. — Macon-Bibb County is considering helping with upkeep of two historic cemeteries.

They are Riverside Cemetery on Riverside Drive and Linwood Cemetery, the city's historic African American cemetery, in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood.

There are many decades of history at both Linwood Cemetery and Riverside Cemetery, but with those years comes costly maintenance and repairs. 

The county says they can help to maintain them with tax dollars.

There are dozens of notable Maconites buried at Linwood Cemetery, like Medal of Honor recipient Rodney Davis and Charles Douglass, who founded the Douglass Theatre.

Over at Riverside Cemetery, prominent names include former Macon Mayor Charles Bowden and local businessman William Fickling, who inspired the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Those cemeteries hold a lot of Macon-Bibb's history, which is why the county is looking to help save them.

Riverside Cemetery is part of the original Ocmulgee Crossing Tax Allocation District along with Rose Hill Cemetery, meaning the county can legally spend tax dollars there to maintain it. As for Linwood, Reichert says, "The idea is that we needed to add in Linwood so as to be equitable."

Under Georgia law, Macon-Bibb cannot spend money to maintain Linwood Cemetery unless it owns it, but Reichert says the Macon Cemetery Preservation Corporation could agree to donate it.

He says the county is thinking about whether they should take ownership of Riverside Cemetery. 

"Their expenses every year have been above their revenue. They don't see that trend changing because more and more people are being cremated rather than buried," Reichert said. 

Reichert says Riverside's biggest expense is maintenance which the county can handle more cost-effectively. 

"Using perhaps prison labor, this that or the other, if we own it. We can't do that unless we own it," Reichert said. 

Riechert estimates that routine maintenance at Riverside could cost around $300,000 a year, not counting improvements. He says he is basing that estimate off of the cost at Rose Hill Cemetery. They're still trying to get an estimate on what Linwood would cost.

"Linwood is smaller but in worse shape," Reichert said. 

Reichert says it's all worth it because it will give green space for people to enjoy and it will preserve the city's history. 

"You are preventing an unacceptable situation from developing overtime where more and more of the cemeteries look worse and worse and worse and fall into all kinds of a dilapidated state," Reichert said. 

We reached out to both Riverside Cemetery and Linwood Cemetery. Riverside did not wish to comment. 

But Yolanda Latimore, the president of the Macon Cemetery Preservation Corporation at Linwood Cemetery, says she is not in support of this proposal, saying it really comes down to trust issues with the county. She wouldn't elaborate more on that. 

The resolutions will be discussed in a commission committee Tuesday morning. 

We reached out to all county commissioners. Of the 7 who responded, all say they're voting for the proposal.

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