Last year, the legislature of Maine passed a law, LD 274, which required towns to maintain the graves, monuments, markers, and headstones of all veterans in public cemeteries and ancient burying grounds, whether they are publicly or privately owned. Under LD 274, towns also must trim weeds, brush, and grass around the graves in ancient burying grounds in conformance with several strict maintenance standards. These standards include:
A. Regrading the grave site to make it level when the grave site has sunk 3 or more inches compared to the surrounding ground;
B. Maintaining the proper height and orientation, both vertical and horizontal, of the headstone, monument or marker;
C. Ensuring that inscriptions on the headstone, monument or marker are visible and legible;
D. Ensuring that the average height of grass at the grave site is between 1.5 to 2.5 inches but no more than 3 inches;
E. Keeping a flat grave marker free of grass and debris; and
F. Keeping the burial place free of fallen trees, branches, vines and weeds.
Prior to LD 274, towns were still responsible for town-owned cemeteries and all wartime veterans’ graves.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone in Maine is thrilled with the new law. State Senator Chris Johnson said that LD 274 unfairly and suddenly imposed a new mandate on local communities with no guidelines and no funding. “Waldoboro had 68 cemeteries and Nobleboro had 80 that met the definition,” Johnson said. “Some of them out in the woods, of various sizes and in all sorts of states of repair. The towns were faced with the new law after their budgets were in place and they were grappling with how to deal with it.”
During the current legislative session Johnson proposed amendment LD 1662 to LD 274, which would keep the mandate to care for the graves, but would give the local communities more control over the work involved, standards of care, and decision-making. As of now, LD 1662 has strong support from both sides of the aisle and should give local communities in Maine some much needed relief.
This story was originally reported on WiscassetNewspaper.com.