Grave tax to be discussed at public meeting for exposed graves

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Lawmakers, state agency officials and the public will gather for a meeting Friday morning to address concerns about flooding that leads to unearthed graves in the Lowcountry.

The meeting comes after Representative Wendell Gilliard visited Monrovia Cemetery following flooding in December that may set records.

He said he was alarmed to see grave vaults popped opened and at least ten caskets exposed because of heavy rain.

“We can’t stand by and have these cemeteries be exposed like this in such a disrespectful condition,” Gilliard said Thursday. “We have to find out who’s responsible and we have to take action.”

Monrovia is a historic African American Cemetery downtown Charleston.

Live 5 first reported on the exposed caskets last week.

The gate was found locked Tuesday morning then reopened on Tuesday afternoon.

The problems gained national attention after continued confusion over who is responsible for reentering the caskets.

“I saw the horrific scene, people crying over their loved ones. I saw one young lady kneeling on her grandmother’s grave in tears,” Gillard said. “I was appalled when I found out DHEC had no authority. LLR had no authority.”

Jamaria Myers is one of many family members with loved ones at the cemetery.

“This is bad,” she said, crying. “I literally woke up out my sleep to my mom’s casket picture being floated around the internet.”

Her mother has been buried at Monrovia for 11 years. Over the years several other Lowcountry cemeteries flooded.

Gilliard is researching how nearby cities and states handle the financial burdens of re-burying and re-constructing grave sites.

One suggestion he plans propose is a grave tax.

“The developers coming in would have to pay what we call a grave tax so when these problems arise or present themselves in any municipality, they have monies in a trust that they can pull from to rectify these situations."

Gilliard said the cemetery owners have been invited to the meeting tomorrow .

“We’re not out here to criticize, chastise or bring anybody under scrutiny. I’m in it for progress. I’m in it for change. We can’t stand by and let this situation happen in Monrovia or any other cemetery,” he said.

The public meeting starts at 11 a.m. Friday at North Charleston City Hall.

The agenda shows information from state health officials and the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation will be shared. The floor will then open for public comment and leaders will set plans for a follow-up meeting.

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