Placeholder Image photo credit: City of Sonoma
Old graves dot the hilly cemetery landscape on a
foggy day in Sonoma.

After the county's 2022/2023 civil grand jury accused the City of Sonoma of essentially 'whistling past the graveyard' by failing to manage its municipal cemeteries, officials with the city are initiating reform.

Along with being almost out of cash, Sonoma’s three city cemeteries are out of graves, and change is needed fast according to a recent civil grand jury's report.

There's no room for burials at any of the three, and the problem is worst at Sonoma’s Veteran Cemetery said City Manager David Guhin.

"Currently, as of today, we're turning people away," Guhin said.

Sonoma is now taking steps to respond to and remedy the situation - a mandated part of the civil grand jury process. Guhin said they're starting with righting the financial ship.

"We've updated this fee schedule to address that, so we feel we've accomplished this item here. We've fixed the system, we've identified a fix needed," Guhin said.

The civil grand jury also recommended an update to operational instructions for the cemeteries.

"We will be working on updating," Guhin said. "We do have some policies and procedures in place, but they are not as complete as we should have for an operation like this."

As well as the designation of a manager for day-to-day operations at the cemeteries, Guhin said.

"It's a a great recommendation," Guhin said. "I've delegated the day-to-day oversight of the overall program to the assistant, to the city manager."

And a financial analysis of cemetery operations and funds, Guhin said.

"It is a big operation," Guhin said. "It's a, it's a business essentially. It's an enterprise fund. We do need somebody that can focus in, in terms of expansion plans, marketing, working with the crematoriums and others, other businesses in the area, and programming the spaces, as we, as we move forward."

Guhin said the city has already identified some quick fixes it can make.

"There's some things that can happen fairly quickly and so we're looking at establishing a community volunteer day at the cemeteries," Guhin said. "We'll probably do one at a time and focus in on it and really identify what we want to get done and, and have the community come together to help us."

Due to the civil grand jury investigation, updates and analysis of Sonoma’s cemetery operations will need to be completed by the end of the year.

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