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Local Heritage Cemetery To Get Facelift

Herndon’s Town Council voted last week on Tuesday to mandate the appropriation of over $1.5 million dollars in additional funds for improvements and additional facilities to Chestnut Grove Cemetery and a coinciding proposal to raise the price of cemetery products and services to offset the cost of construction.

The project, a municipal capital improvement project that was held over from fiscal year 2006, will be funded by the proposed additional revenue generated by the cemetery, according to Art Anselene, director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Herndon. Proposed improvements including adding a new maintenance facility and an on-site funeral manager’s office and increasing cemetery services such as building a garden mausoleum and adding areas for internment of cremated remains.

"The project has been in the budget for several years," Anselene said, noting that construction was originally scheduled to begin last year. "Unfortunately it has taken a little longer in the planning, bidding and bid review stages to get all of the arrangements completed."

"It’s important for the town to do as much as we can do offer the most possible services for our residents, and the town requires these services to be of high quality," he added. "[The project] is about quality of life and quality of the community."

HERNDON’S FISCAL YEAR 2006 CIP had initially set aside $750,000 to be used for the improvements, and had to account for the more than $1.55 million in remaining funds needed to cover the contract to the construction firm that will undertake the project.

The more than $2 million contract was awarded to the Sterling-based construction firm, Milestone Construction Services, Inc.

The improvements the cemetery will come from enterprise fund sources, and will therefore have its additional necessary funds covered by bonds that will eventually be paid back with added cemetery revenue to the town, according to Anselene.

"A cemetery is a totally self-supporting project," Anselene said. "The town isn’t really giving any money to this project."

THE IMPROVEMENTS are being done to meet the growing interment demands of families and loved ones and to increase efficiency and overall "quality of service" of the cemetery grounds, according to Mike Moore, manager of Chestnut Grove Cemetery.

"With cremation being the choice of more and more families, we realized that we needed to be able to offer that service to people," Moore said.

The improvements call for the construction of a columbarium — a vault with niches for urns containing cremated remains — and a mausoleum. Other additions include replacing old maintenance barns with 1,891 square-foot maintenance facility and establishing an administrative office so that cemetery officials could move from the town’s municipal center to the cemetery itself.

"The expansions will allow us to serve the community for the next 50 to 75 years," after a second phase is finished several years down the road, Moore added.

THE TOWN TOOK OVER management of the Chestnut Grove Cemetery after it was donated by a non-profit organization in 1997. While the town of Herndon states that the earliest burials took place on cemetery grounds in the 1830s, the oldest headstone in the cemetery dates back to the 1850s, according to Moore.

"It’s important for our residents to have a community cemetery and not one that is 20 minutes away," Moore said. "When a death does occur in our community, there is the option of having this cemetery, which is perpetually maintained, to serve our community."

"Having been in over 100 cemeteries in my life, one of the things about [Chestnut Grove] is how peaceful it is in that it is nestled in the trees … it gives the cemetery a very old, nice look," he added. "More modern cemeteries are very structured, they don’t have a lot of the landscaping in the same manner as Chestnut Grove."

Chestnut Grove Cemetery is the burial place of two Civil War soldiers and Isaiah Bready, the first mayor of Herndon.