Kannapolis mulls new cemetery rules, tables water plan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 13, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — The Kannapolis City Council considered, then passed on one of the concerns raised in the long fight to transfer water from the Catawba River basin at Monday’s meeting.
One of the stipulations in the settlement ending the legal battle for an interbasin transfer agreement was that Kannapolis and Concord consider a ban on non-emergency water supplies to customers outside their service areas.
Such an agreement might have kept Kannapolis from selling water to a new development outside the city limits.
But, as City Manager Mike Legg and others observed, the settlement merely required the city to consider the ban at a public hearing, not to pass it.
And a divided council voted 4-to-3 to table the matter indefinitely.
Councilmen Randy Cauthen, Gene McCombs and Roger Haas voted against the motion to table.
Cauthen and McCombs said they’d rather see a clear vote against such a measure on the record.
“I think this is onerous, unfair,” McCombs said. “I think it would be extremely unfair to our economic development efforts.”
Still, debate over the issue centered on the message a clear vote against the measure would send to groups like the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.
That group led a coalition of municipalities and other organizations to sue Kannapolis and Concord to stop water from being transferred from the Catawba River.
The settlement agreement’s language already prohibits Kannapolis from reselling or transferring Catawba basin water to public water systems outside their service areas, except for pre-existing customers.
This means, for example, that Kannapolis’ existing contract to supply water to Landis would be unaffected, Legg said.
The agreement also requires Kannapolis to “consider a ban on non-emergency water supplies on new customers outside their service areas” — but does not require the ban to be passed.
Kannapolis advertised the public hearing scheduled as part of Monday’s meeting, City Attorney Wally Safrit said.
“We were required to notify all 31 participants (in the suit),” Safrit said.
“I’m surprised there’s not someone here to speak on behalf of the Riverkeeper or the coalition,” Safrit said.
Another matter involving new legal restrictions was also tabled until January.
Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills presented a draft set of new regulations governing city-owned historic Kannapolis Cemetery.
The cemetery, over a century old, is the final resting place of Kannapolis’ earliest inhabitants, including hundreds who worked for Cannon Mills.
Officially closed since the 1940s when the last burial rights were sold, Mills told council members that burials are still taking place almost every week.
There are some 1,400 empty plots, Mills said.
Many residents whose parents or grandparents purchased plots are only now beginning to make use of them.
And Mills estimated up to half the remaining plots may never be used.
Those are lots where the burial rights are owned by families who’ve since moved away, or whose children or grandchildren don’t even know about them.
Mills said the new rules were designed to codify things that have been in practice since the Cannon era.
“We’ve been working on these for about ten years now,” Mills said.
Among the new rules are regulations requiring a $100 payment into the perpetual care fund at the time a burial takes place.
Previously, that payment had been voluntary.
The rules do not ban upright tombstones, Mills said, but they will require some sort of marker at every grave.
Currently, Mills said, hundreds of graves are unmarked. Many will never be known because no records exist.
And the new rules would also require burial vaults to be used.
But a ban on Sunday burials raised concerns from Mike Reavis, owner of Lady’s Funeral Home and Crematory in Kannapolis.
Reavis said it was unreasonable not to allow burials on Sunday, or have a staff member available to funeral directors on weekends.
“It’s just a normal day,” Reavis said. “… They’ll plan (the funeral) and put it off until Sunday so kids can come home from college, so people can come in from out of town.”
Reavis said he believed Kannapolis Cemetery would become the only one in Cabarrus or Rowan not to allow burials on Sunday.
With that in mind, Haas asked Mills to consider these issues and moved to table the discussion until January 19. The vote to do so was unanimous.
In other action
In other business before the Kannapolis City Council:
• Council members heard a report from Finance Director Eric Davis with results of the fiscal year 2010 audit.
The report shows no findings of fault or questioned costs, and no material internal control weaknesses.
The audit report is available for download via the city’s website, and paper copies are available at city hall and at the Kannapolis Customer Service Center.
Legg said that after losing the city’s biggest taxpayer in Pillowtex, going through two major droughts and being in the middle of the biggest recession in recent history, “all things considered, we’re doing all right.”
• Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills and Jeff Ashbaugh of Site Solutions presented artists’ renderings and a draft plan for renovations to Veterans Park.
The city funded improvements to the park as part of the Certificates of Participation financing plan to fund improvements related to the N.C. Research Campus.
According to the draft plan, Ashbaugh said, construction could begin as soon as May 2012 with a grand opening slated for Memorial Day 2013.
• Council voted unanimously to designate West D Street adjacent to the new Cabarrus Health Alliance building as a one-way street.
City Attorney Wally Safrit said that the change in ordinance made West D Street the first one-way street in the city of Kannapolis.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.