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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Stonington voters approve Circus Lot purchase, creation of cemetery commission

    Stonington ― Voters at Monday’s Town Meeting overhwhelmingly approved the $35,000 purchase of an overgrown property in Pawcatuck known as the Circus Lot.

    The approval by a 146-10 vote will allow the town to buy the property back from Westerly as part of an estimated $2.2 million plan to create a riverfront park with athletic fields and a fishing dock at the end of Noyes Avenue.

    When the town sold the property in Pawcatuck to Westerly in 1982 to use as a well, Stonington reserved the right to buy the property back for $35,000 if it was no longer in use. Westerly officials recently provided the town with documentation confirming the property is no longer in use.

    The 2023-24 town budget includes $125,000 to purchase and begin work on the property.

    Cemetery Commission approved

    Voters at the Town Meeting also approved an amended resolution to create a Cemetery Commission.

    Many of the 48 town cemeteries and ancient burial grounds in town have not been maintained and are overgrown, since the current $1,000 a year allotted to the Department of Public Works to maintain them does not allow the employees to keep up with the work.

    Additionally, many are located in the woods and difficult to access.

    Under state law, only towns, the state, cemetery associations and churches can own burial grounds, leaving the town to shoulder maintenance costs for the cemeteries.

    Kyle Berg, president of the Stonington Cemetery Association, said the ordinance would enable the commission to take charge of data collection for the four active cemeteries in town that are not town owned.

    He said that Stonington Cemetery Association’s Evergreen Cemetery, Elm Grove Cemetery, St. Michael’s Cemetery and St. Mary’s Cemetery all are currently in complete compliance with reporting requirements and proposed the resolution be amended to exclude them from the ordinance.

    “We don’t believe it needs to be taken over by a commission,” he said.

    The amendment was approved by a show of hands, with only three votes against it, and the ordinance overwhelmingly passed 144-10.

    The commission will be an advisory board comprised of five regular members and two alternate members serving staggered three-year terms. The commission would oversee the protection, preservation and maintenance of the town’s cemeteries as well as identify potential funding sources to support continued maintenance.

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