City officials take steps to repair, protect Cape cemetery from vandals

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The city council also appointed 10 people to serve on an open burning task force.

Private donors are beginning to make a difference to repair vandalism at Old Lorimier Cemetery, Cape Girardeau City Council members learned Monday.

While donations to the Parks Development Fund so far total only $1,500 for repairs estimated to cost between $40,000 and $60,000, other pledges will help swell that total, saId Dan Muser, director of parks and recreation.

Council members expressed outrage at the extensive damage done by vandals at the cemetery the weekend of Oct. 22 to 23. Vandals damaged 69 headstones in the cemetery, which dates to 1808 and includes the graves of town founder Louis Lorimier and his wife, Charlotte.

In addition to the donations for repairs, private contributions have doubled the reward being offered by CrimeStoppers to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals.

The cemetery has been the victim of such attacks before, but never to this extent. "The degree of vandalism this time has us all shaking our heads," Mayor Jay Knudtson said. "These people are mean-spirited."

City manager Doug Leslie noted that past vandals have been found and he predicted the latest perpetrators would be caught as well. "It may take some time, but we will keep pursuing them."

An expert in headstone restoration will visit the cemetery Thursday to teach techniques that may help, Muser said.

And AmerenUE has replaced overhead lights that were out when the vandals struck, Leslie said.

In other action, the council approved a contract for health insurance for city workers next year that will increase city costs by 7.9 percent and premiums for workers who cover their families by 3.1 percent. Those are the smallest cost increases for city health coverage since 1999.

The council also appointed 10 people to an Open Burning Task Force to consider whether to ban the annual torching of fall leaves. No dates were set for the task force to make recommendations. The task force includes five public members and five members who represent city government, public schools and the health department.

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