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By Erin Smith

Town of Elizabethtown officials say they are waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to notify the town regarding repairs to the town’s cemetery suffered during Hurricane Florence.

When asked if more movement has occurred at the site, Town Manager Eddie Madden said the engineers have set benchmarks at various points throughout the cemetery and are monitoring the movement of the soil. Thus far, no new movement has been detected.

Following Hurricane Florence, large cracks appeared at the cemetery in the roadway along East Queen Street. Town officials say no graves have been lost and there is no immediate danger to the current graves.  

Town staff have been meeting with engineers and had a soil boring performed in several locations in the cemetery in attempt to understand what is causing the soil movement. What was learned from those soil borings is when the cemetery was created, the land was filled with a layer of sand rather than a clay-type soil. When the ground becomes saturated with water as it did in Hurricanes Matthew and Florence it caused the soil to shift or slide towards the river.

Madden said at the present time, the consensus of the town board is to relocate the cemetery. The town has permission from the NC Division on Aviation to utilize a 60-acre parcel of land located near the Elizabethtown airport the town already owns, which is restricted for use for airport purposes only.

Funding for the relocation of the graves is the next step. Madden said, “We’re waiting on FEMA.”

He said there are two possible funding sources which the town can use to defray the costs of relocation and repairing the current site. Those sources are State Hazard Mitigation Funds and FEMA. Once town officials know whether or not FEMA will offer the town any assistance, they can then apply to the State Hazard Mitigation Fund.

Madden said the town staff has identified 276 graves that will be affected by the relocation. He said once the graves are relocated, work won’t stop there.

“Some type of stabilization work will have to be done (once the graves are moved),” said Madden. “We don’t want to worsen (the situation) or affect other properties.”

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