Lane Street Project: July 20 city council meeting, public comment talking points.

Mayor Carlton Stevens recently indicated that Vick Cemetery would be on the agenda at the next city council meeting. Wilson doesn’t post agendas in advance (the most recent are for April 2023) and doesn’t post minutes at all (which is par for the general lack of transparency this government holds as a core value.)

Anyway, the next meeting is Thursday, July 20, at 7:00 P.M. on the third floor of City Hall, 112 Goldsboro Street East. (The entrance is at the side of the building.)

If you believe the City is mishandling Vick Cemetery, please let them know. As long as they can convince themselves it’s only me and Castonoble Hooks howling into the wind, they’ll keep their backs turned.

Here are the rules:

Please feel free to speak your heart and mind, but if you are interested, here are a few talking points that come to mind:

  • Transparency and accountability. To date, there have been none. Neither council, the Mayor, nor other city officials have sought to engage the descendant community and allies or have otherwise communicated the City’s intentions.
  • The fence. The fence is a non-starter right now. It is clear that graves lie across Vick’s modern property lines. Placing a fence inside the power poles (and on top of graves) is not an option. And, obviously, a fence outside the power poles is impossible, too. Also, there are better, less intrusive ways to protect Vick from dumping and car tricks.
  • The survey map. Why won’t the City order a survey map of Vick? Here’s why we need one. And once we get it, it should be filed with Wilson County Register of Deeds.
  • The graves. What are the plans for marking the graves? What is to be done about graves that lie in the current right-of-way (primarily between the power poles and the ditch)? Exhume them, DNA-test the remains, reinter in Rest Haven? Sponsor DNA testing for potential descendants interesting in trying to identify the deceased?
  • The GPR survey. (a) New South Associates should return to Vick to survey the unsurveyed areas at the edges of the cemetery. (b) Why did the City sit on the survey report until April 2023 when it was received in October 2022? Did city council avail itself of New South Associates’ offer to meet to explain the survey results? Why not? Only two council members attended the May 11 public forum about the report. Where were the other five?
  • The power poles. These poles are inside Vick Cemetery. And are standing in and among graves. How did this happen? What can be done about it? Should the power lines be re-routed? Will council initiate a cost inquiry and/or feasibility study?
  • The headstones. The City ordered Vick’s headstones removed in 1996. Where are they now? If the City doesn’t have them, what happened to them? We demand an independent investigation.
  • The law. State statue makes it unlawful to:
    (1) Open, disturb, destroy, remove, vandalize or desecrate any casket or other repository of any human remains, by any means including plowing under, tearing up, covering over or otherwise obliterating or removing any grave or any portion thereof.
    (2) Take away, disturb, vandalize, destroy, tamper with, or deface any tombstone, headstone, monument, grave marker, grave ornamentation, or grave artifacts erected or placed within any cemetery to designate the place where human remains are interred or to preserve and perpetuate the memory and the name of any person. This subdivision shall not apply to the ordinary maintenance and care of a cemetery.
    What is the City doing to insure it does not further violate this statute?
  • Funding. Is the City seeking grant funding for Vick?
  • Expertise. With whom is the City talking about how to move forward at Vick? [They certainly aren’t talking to me.] With whom is the City consulting? If no one, why not? Has the City sought the assistance of the State Archaeology Office? Is it reaching out to cities that have addressed similar situations, like Rocky Mount, Statesville, or Elizabeth City?

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