City, state address Memorial Park Cemetery issue

Problems arose when grass wasn’t mowed for Memorial Day weekend

The city of Fort Dodge is formally teaming up with the Iowa Insurance Division to care for Fort Dodge Memorial Park Cemetery while a court proceeding is underway.

The state agency has filed a court petition seeking to take control of the troubled cemetery through a process called receivership.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously and with no discussion approved a memorandum of understanding with the Iowa Insurance Division that will be in effect during the court proceedings and receivership.

Under the terms of that agreement, the city will:

• Maintain the cemetery’s maps and records.

• Maintain the cemetery’s buildings and grounds.

• Mow the site.

In return, the state will pay the city $35,000.

Fort Dodge Memorial Park Cemetery is located at 3242 Fifth Ave. S. Its overgrown conditions caught public attention over the Memorial Day weekend, when grass as high as 10 inches was obscuring the headstones.

On May 25, Bradley Edgerton, of Fort Dodge, issued a call via social media for volunteers to help him mow the cemetery. In response, volunteers converged on the site with their own mowers and trimmers. It’s unknown how many people helped.

As he responded to complaints about the cemetery’s condition last month, City Manager David Fierke sent police officers to the home of Alan C. Dorothy, the organizer of Fort Dodge Memorial Park LLC. According to Fierke, Dorothy told the officers that he was out of business and no longer taking care of the cemetery.

Dorothy has since given his consent for the city to maintain the cemetery. He has also agreed not to oppose the receivership process in court.

Fierke has hired Jeff’s Lawn & Snow Care, of Rolfe, to mow the cemetery at a cost of $11,000.

Regulating cemeteries is one of the duties of the Iowa Insurance Division. After it gains control of the site through receivership, it will seek a new owner.

If that effort fails, the cemetery would become city property.

”Most likely, the city will end up with the property,” Fierke wrote in a report to the council.