Manila residents express objection to location of crematorium

Monday, December 23, 2013

Manila City Council meeting opened Monday, Dec. 16, with a short executive session. Following the closed meeting, the council voted to close city hall Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the Christmas holiday.

Several residents were in attendance to discuss a proposed crematorium. Susan Byrd Robertson addressed the council at the November meeting with plans to construct a crematorium on her parent's property in Costner Addition.

At the last meeting the council voted to give a variance contingent on gathering further information for the crematorium project.

Mayor Wagner offered details on how the council approves ordinances over three meetings. This gives residents time to react. "At times if there is no objection we can suspend the rules and pass on the third reading," Wagner said.

"Between the November and December meetings, council received a lot of opposition of the location of the proposed crematorium," Mayor Wagner said. "We are willing to listen to both sides. This would be the second meeting."

Robertson said it was her understanding the council voted in favor of allowing the construction of crematorium.

"I thought it was complete," Robertson said. "There are other businesses in the area. It is my understanding there is no zoning in the area."

Wagner said the council will need to go over this in three meetings.

"I don't think anyone is against you," Mayor Wagner said. "It is where you want to put the business."

Resident Carroll Towell said, "The Byrds are good people, good neighbors and I like them."

"It is hurting me to say this but I think the council should pass an ordinance making the area residential," Towell said. "I know there is a church and businesses that would need to be grandfathered in."

Mayor Wagner asked Robertson if she would you rather put off the discussion until the January meeting.

Robertson said she would like to hear their thoughts.

"I have been researching this for years," Robertson said. "I think it is the shock factor. It would be the first one in Manila."

She said it is very common in other areas.

About a dozen residents from the area were present and had the opportunity to express their opinions to having a crematorium built in their neighborhood. They expressed various reasons for their objections including property value, scaring their children, concerns over emissions, and opposition to cremation.

"You are picturing a hearse coming in and out and it will not be that way," Robertson said. "There will not be anything for kids or adults to see. I respect everyone here. You have a funeral home in your back door."

"If I understand, you wouldn't want it anywhere in Manila," Robertson said.

"We have some very expensive homes in the Costner edition. If these people decide to sell their homes do you think people will want to buy them?" Sandra Sickels said. "I don't want it for my grandchildren and I don't want it there for myself."

Earl Jackson expressed his opposition to a crematory.

"The Byrds were the first people I met and I do consider them my friends," Jackson said. "If Susan asked for a variance to build a duplex apartment I would not be having this discussion."

He expressed his concerns on his property value and possible emissions.

"It is very controlled," Robertson said. "Technology has come a long way. Be sure and look at the date of information if you are looking on the internet."

Mr. Byrd again emphasized there would be no smoke, no bodies, no smell.

"We voted to approve the variance if there were no objections," Councilman Tony Hawkins said. "Evidently the majority of the residents in the area do not want it."

Mayor Wagner said the only thing the city council can do is approve a variance for the crematorium to be built in a residential area or not allow it.

"This is the way city government is supposed to work," Mayor Wagner said. "You all came and expressed your opinions and the council will have to come to a conclusion. We will act on this at the Jan. 20 meeting."

Mayor Wagner said he thinks the council does a good job representing the community. He asked Robertson to consider allowing the city to find a commercial area for the crematorium.

Mayor Wagner gave an update on the parade.

"It was smaller than usual but it was good," Mayor Wagner said. "I think anytime you have to reschedule an event, participants have other commitments. I heard the Christmas show was very good."

Councilman Linda Donovan said Councilman Donnie Wagner was a tremendous help decorating at the center and getting it ready for Christmas. She also thanked Councilman Tony Hawkins for gathering door prizes and the local businesses for donating prizes."

Mayor Wagner said they would look at the budget next month and the purchasing of new police radios.

He also said they will have to discuss the cost of moving utilities on Highway 18. The city received a letter from the Highway Department with an estimated cost to the city of $600,000 to $1 million.

"This is something we will have to address," Mayor Wagner said.

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