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Aug. 7, 2022

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Washougal City Council votes to eliminate cemetery board

Duties to be rolled under umbrella of city’s parks board

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The Washougal City Council has eliminated the city’s cemetery board in a move that came as a great shock to the cemetery board’s president.

“We had held a meeting not two weeks prior and staff made no mention of this,” Micki Mulder said days after the council voted unanimously to eliminate the cemetery board and roll its duties under the umbrella of the city’s parks board, now known as the Board of Park and Cemetery Commissioners.

Washougal City Manager David Scott told Washougal City Council members in May that cemetery boards are optional and said many Washington cities, including Camas, do not have a separate cemetery board of commissioners.

“Cities don’t have to have one,” Scott said. “In many communities, there is no advisory board around the cemetery — the staff takes care of the cemetery under the advice of the council. When you look at what other communities are doing and think about our lead staff, streamlining the number of boards and commissions that we have would be a benefit in terms of those dynamics.”

Mulder disagrees that the city of Washougal will be better off streamlining its advisory commissions, especially when it comes to cemetery oversight.

“I think the manager is wrong, and that no one on the park board knows the first thing about cemetery operations,” Mulder said. “I asked Mr. Scott if the Public Works Committee had even spoken to Camas about how they transitioned and was told, ‘No.’ ”

The Washougal Cemetery Board was responsible for advising the city council on planning and development issues related to the Washougal Memorial Cemetery. The board also submitted annual budgetary requests to the council for funds needed to administer cemetery programs.

At the time of its elimination, the board had four active members — Mulder, Janet Alder, Diane English and John Henriksen — and a vacant fifth position.

The city’s public works committee recommended that the cemetery board members form a new committee to assist Washougal City Engagement Manager Rose Jewell with the planning of the city’s annual Memorial Day event.

“We have wonderful people who have stepped up to volunteer for our community that applied to serve on our cemetery board. That has historically been a board that’s been difficult to recruit for, so we’re really appreciative and super grateful to the folks who have stepped up,” Scott said. “We want to continue their spirit of service. The idea from the public works committee is to invite them to continue to participate in something which is a good chunk of what they do currently.”

Mulder said she wasn’t fond of the proposal.

“I cannot speak for the other board members, (but I think) the advisory group/committee is a joke,” Mulder said. “And if this is truly a ‘streamlining’ effort, why keep the park board, either?”

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