March 02, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Questions about future development plans and beautification at the Union Cemetery have created an election race between Sidney Huffman and Pauline Weise.

The cemetery maintenance district has three elected board members who oversee the operation of the cemetery and the taxing districts budget.

Huffman was appointed to the board 11/2 years ago when it was determined that Scott Morrison had been illegally appointed by the then-chairwoman of the board. Huffman had finished second in an earlier election, and was appointed by the Union County Board of Commissioners.

The three-member cemetery board elects its own officers, and Huffman has been serving as chairman of the board. Irene Langford and Carmen Gambil are the other board members at present.

Huffman and Weise answered the following questions:

What experience do you bring to this position?

Huffman: Sept. 23, 1999, I was sworn in after being appointed to the cemetery maintenance board by the county commissioners. I was on the Union budget committee for four years before that.

Huffman added that his father had served on the cemetery maintenance board for several terms in the 1970s.

Weise: Weise completed 14 years of service as a member of the Union Planning Commission in December.

She has been a 4-H leader in the past, and supportive of her childrens involvement in baseball, football and currently FFA.

Why do you want to serve on this board? What do you see as a board members role?

Huffman: I think you take pride in anything you own. If you are a taxpayer and a member of the community, you take pride in the community, and invest in the community. (In addition to taxes he pays) the cemetery is an investment in time for me, Huffman said. Its like having a part-time job; were often up there seven days a week.

Calling himself a beautifier, Hoffman doesnt want to change what the cemetery means to people, but sees adding flowers along the creek-side, and trees to the newer sections as both beautifying the cemetery and assuring that in the future the entire cemetery has a look that is comforting and unified to the older sections.

Part of the role of a board members is also to oversee the budget, Huffman says. The primary funds to operate and maintain the cemetery come from the taxing district, but the cemetery also sells gravesites and charges a fee for opening and closing graves. Currently, there about 880 sites ready for sale.

Weise: A couple of years ago I got interested in where my tax dollars were going. I did some research and then I started reading the cemetery board minutes and following what was going on.

I hope I can accomplish more public awareness of the cemetery, Weise said.

The other thing I noted is that the

other cemetery in the district (near Medical Springs) is not being maintained at all.

Id like to see more accountability. Theres a lot of decision-making going on without public input. People should come to the meetings even if theres not any


Weise says she hasnt had a chance to attend a meeting yet.

What is your vision of the cemetery in the near and distant future?

Huffman: The cemetery, in my opinion, is set up as one of the most beautiful in Oregon, Huffman said. It has taste and serenity. My whole input is to bring the newer additions in with continuity.

The addition of new trees in the newer sections will screen the cemetery from the golf course, and the wind will be partially blocked by about 20 arbor vitae we plan to add in each corner. We need to keep the tree rotation in the whole cemetery as a goal to keep the same healthy flow of mature trees going.

Huffmans vision includes a bench for cemetery visitors in every section, and includes completing the chapel as a place for meditation and services as needed.

The chapel was saved by Carmen (Gambil) and the veterans, and its going to be magnificent. Weve put a cross on the top of the roof, added a handcrafted door its going to be awesome.

Huffman also sees getting markers placed to note about 100 unmarked graves in the cemetery by the end of the year.

And then there are cremations.

Weve had 13 cremations since last July, he said. Thats more than in the last 100 years. While a cremains vault may not be cost effective now, Huffman said the board is looking at some type of low wall where ashes could be interred and memorial plaques installed.

We want to offer two or three options for cremains, he said.

A new fence, better fitting the traditional look of the cemetery, is also on Huffmans list after Fulton Street is rebuilt.

Weise: You have to look at the future, not just today, and you have to make future plans, even if its difficult, Weise says.

She points to the development going on around the cemetery, and contends that within the boundaries of the cemetery, the board also has to look toward the future.

I dont think theres a long-term plan for the (five) undeveloped acres, Weise said, referring to the land currently rented out for grazing that extends back from Fulton Street. It should be a high priority, planning whats going to happen and having a written plan in place.

The cemetery needs to be maintained as the historical place it is, maintaining its authenticity.

Weise acknowledges that there needs to be avenues to look at as options for different types of burial increase, but we should try to keep our cemeteries as they are today.

Its not that Im opposed to walls for ashes, but I dont know if were ready for that now.