‘Time Jockey ’ Savannah Blues

by Joe Castillo

Historical Perspective …. For over 150 years, Savannah Memorial Cemetery has met every challenge which has come its way. It has survived from the pioneer days, through city incorporations and planning, population booms and growth expansion. But now a new challenge is being faced by the historic cemetery, the challenge of water and its rising costs. In a heated Savannah Board meeting, the Board of Directors voted by a count of 5 to 3 to implement the ‘Savannah Conservation Plan,’ a water and landscape based conservation landscape design. The plan will change over 60% of the landscape from grass to decomposed ground cover and bark, provide drought tolerant plants and add new trees throughout the nearly four acres of land. The new look will forever change the face of the cemetery; it will be a change that will affect the future of this historic cemetery. But one would think that such an important change would have been well planned out, discussed and finally presented. But that wasn’t the case at Savannah. For over 5 months, the Board of Directors has heard varying versions of the proposed plan, but at no time was a detailed plan with valid cost estimates and accurate timeframes presented. When it came time for this significant meeting and vote, a one week notice was given with no agenda, no plan items and no supporting documentation. At the board meeting, a 2-page proposal with unsupported cost estimates and aggressive timelines was distributed to Board members for questions and discussion. A request to postpone any impending vote was dismissed and an individual vote was called for after 15 minutes of heated debate and discussion. The motion passed without a total cost for the project included in the motion. The future of Savannah was made by one roll call of votes, without a solid project plan and without an acceptable estimate of costs. It was made in haste rather than in deliberation, it was made under political pressures, rather than for the good of Savannah. The families that have loved ones buried at the Cemetery were not asked for their opinions and it’s obvious that those who are buried on the grounds were not asked either. So why did the board of directors vote to move the cemetery to a plant, ground and water conversation landscape design? It was a number of factors including drought fears, money management concerns and local political pressures. But perhaps the biggest reason was a lack of substantiated facts and accurate information presented to Board members, pushing them into making an uninformed decision on the cost, effects and benefits from adopting a landscape and water conservation design. As John Wooden, one of the most successful college basketball coaches ever stated, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to failure.” Savannah Memorial Cemetery failed to plan and now has no idea what the future holds for this historic cemetery….

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