I would like to respond to the Letter to the Editor in the Jan. 16 edition of the Merritt Herald, regarding the City cemetery in poor condition.

I would, once again, like to thank both Catherine and Ken Wayne for the much-needed work they have done on the cataloguing of the cemetery’s plots.  The binder took a lot of work, and the City is very grateful for their interest and time involved.   

Rest assured, the project has not been shelved!  However, more work and money are necessary to complete the project.  Once the additional documentation is completed, the plan is to incorporate this information into our online Geographic Information System (GIS) system, which we are currently in the process of developing.   

This will be a new public facing (GIS) which will show all the Merritt Cemetery information. This platform will also show available expansion options, and which spots are currently available. An example of what the system will look like can be found at https://app.munisight.com/CityofWetaskiwin/Content/Site/MainPage.aspx?siteId=1.  We look forward to rolling this new platform out within the next few months, and providing additional services for our local Nicola Valley residents.

The City will be seeking a grant to complete the documentation for this project, which integrates the historical data that is currently kept within the museum and other organizations with what has been documented within this binder.   This additional project should complete the documentation required for the GIS system. Unfortunately, this is a project that was outside of the fiscal scope of City staff, hence the need for a grant.  Grant applications can take time.

Many individuals come to council, expecting their projects to be implemented faster than we have the ability to respond.  Prior to the time Catherine and Ken brought this project to me, we had already set our projects for the current budget. An instantaneous response usually only happens when the issue is deemed to be emergent. Although this project is deemed highly important for the City, it wasn’t deemed to be emergent.   

Keeping and maintaining historical gravesites is important for the entire community. The City recognizes this importance. Having stated that, it is also an expensive project, and one that we are seeking outside help to determine whose responsibility it is to maintain the headstones:  the family or the taxpayers.      

If any outside group were to take on this project to repair headstones, the City would welcome their participation.

The City will continue to clean up and beautify the cemetery, which is in the budget for 2020.   A big investment was already made last year for a columbarium, which has recently been installed.  This should address some of the concerns brought to light because of this project, but we need more time to address all the concerns.  We continue to make progress on this project.    

Thank you both, Catherine and Ken, for your generous donation of time and energy on this project.  It has not been shelved.

Mayor Linda Brown