Controversy arises over Madison’s new cemetery ordinance

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - There's controversy over a cemetery ordinance put into place in Madison. The city council decided to outlaw all items not attached to the headstone last year, and the city began enforcing the rule last week.

Vicki Morris says Madison Cemetery is a place for her to grieve the loss of her parents. "This is our solace, this is for the people that are left behind," says Morris.  She visits her parents' graves frequently and is voicing her concern about the measure. “She loved flowers, she loved wreaths, she loved holidays, so we’re really limited now as to what we can actually do," she says.

Kent Smith, Director of Madison Public Works, says the move wasn't all about aesthetics.  “Primarily it was driven by public safety," he explains. "It had gotten in such disarray that just getting around the cemetery was getting to be a chore... You couldn’t get through with walkers and wheelchairs.”

Smith says they had problems with loved ones leaving liquor bottles behind. The statues and benches also caused issues for mowers and groundskeepers, but says anything attached to the marker can stay. "Saddles on the tombstone and items attached to the tombstone are allowed and outside of that, nothing else," says Smith.

The rules may add functionality, but Morris says it makes this place lose its character. "We’re not unreasonable, we understand you don’t want things all over the place, that they’re having to pick up and work around, but there has to be some meet in the middle," says Morris.

All items that don't meet standards are being kept in a pile in the back of the cemetery. The city acknowledges those items can be accessed by anyone.  They encourage family members to come claim their possessions as soon as possible. If they aren't claimed by April 5, they'll be thrown away.