Johnson City cemetery owner asks for help with maintaining property

Oak Hill Cemetery in Johnson City was recently placed on the Tennessee Preservation Trust's Top Ten Endangered Historic Properties list.

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – A local cemetery is reaching out to the community for help with cemetery maintenance issues. Oak Hill Cemetery is home to several Johnson City natives who contributed to the region’s history.

“You’ve got Henry Johnson. He’s the founder of Johnson City he’s buried in here. You’ve got Leroy Reeves over there he’s the designer of the Tennessee State Flag,” said Oak Hill Cemetery Owner Tim McKinney.

But McKinney said the cemeteries long history comes with continuous challenges.

“This is the worst year since I’ve been here, that we’ve had with donations,” said McKinney.

According to McKinney, it takes about $12,000 in donations to keep Oak Hill’s grass cut and tombstones up to par.

“There [are] places in the retaining wall that are big chunks of concrete falling out over there on Lamont Street and it just looks bad,” said McKinney.

On July 1st, a Tennessee law took effect that would allow cities to help maintain local cemeteries. The law specifically applies to cemeteries that are run down or abandoned.

“Years ago this cemetery was in dire shape, it was I bad condition. You know a lot of these old stones got vandalized,” said McKinney.

McKinney said under his ownership  the cemetery looks better. He says the law may not apply to his property, but he still hopes the city will help with maintenance issues.

“The fact is that it’s privately owned …. the city would have to have a reason to justify building me a fence around this whole cemetery,” said McKinney.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola told News Channel 11 because Oak Hill is privately owned, the city cannot provide significant help.

However, Pindzola said the city is willing to help with smaller maintenance issues regarding parts of the property like curb maintenance, etc.. Pindzola said he suggested McKinney apply to become a state historic site.

McKinney said he applied but was denied. McKinney said he will keep trying, but until then, he hopes more donations will start flowing in.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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