The Blanco Historic Cemetery Association held their annual membership meeting on Saturday, February 25, at the Blanco Masonic Lodge. This year's meeting went smoother than the last and without as many raised voices; last year's meeting had to be split into two sessions to get through the agenda. The subject of contention this year was the association's new constitution and bylaws.
Board members Rebecca Howerton, Clara Gourley, Connie Russell, Gail McClellan, and Diane Hostetler were present as the Masonic Lodge meeting room filled up. Dennis Moore couldn't make the meeting. Upon arrival, members were asked to sign in, given cards for secret ballot voting, and were asked to fill out a contact information form.
President Gail McClellan called the meeting to order shortly after 2pm.
The board and membership reviewed the minutes from last year's meeting, approving them. McClellan gave a short financial report in Moore's absence: the association holds CDs totaling $250,115.90 in three banks--three in BBVA Compass, two in Blanco National Bank, and one in First State Bank Centex.
The board members gave their directors' reports. Howerton, as superintendent of grounds, reported on the work being done to maintain the cemetery. Charlene and Raymond Singleton and Phyllis Edmondson, with Jesse Calzoncit working part-time, work to keep the grounds clean. Gourley reported that she had done the grave marking and had worked on the new constitution and bylaws.
McClellan gave updates on the hot topics from the last membership meeting. The board had received a letter from a member who had a complaint about cemetery plots. A lawyer hired by two directors advised the association to meet the member's "demands." McClellan reported that member's paperwork was in order, the action was done, and the complaint was resolved. The legal fees were $1,680, but the association does not have the lawyer's letters or documentation.
McClellan reported that former board president Tina Gourley's audit turned up $16,000 in unaccounted funds missing. The money was obtained by cashing in a CD, McClellan reported. "Upon investigating the matter," McClellan said, "board minutes were found from that time that authorized the $16,000 expenditure. All the relevant documentation--the receipts, the CD--is as complete as you can be." The funds were spent on repairs to monuments and building a rock wall.
For the situation where a person was buried in another family's plot, a solution was reportedly reached. People who had not received their certificates of ownership, or had incorrect information on the certificates, had received their certificates.
"We're willing to make anything right," McClellan said. "Just show us your paperwork."
The association has also rented a safety deposit box at Blanco National Bank to safely store important papers and original certificates. Gourley also found the association's tax-exempt ID number and updated the status with the IRS with the help of Mildred Sheppard Jones.
McClellan thanked the membership for their help and input. "As a board, we take great pleasure in serving our community and volunteering our time. But it is very disappointing that discord takes place, has taken place, and sometimes still takes place. I hope, in this meeting, we can put it to bed. It's no fun working with discord. Our only purpose is helping people lay their loved ones to rest. We're happy to deal with all that that requires, along with dealing with the necessary paperwork. There are long hours and we love it. ... Please feel free to contact the board with any concerns or issues that might arise. There is no place in this little community organization for politics, power struggles, or any kind of strife. ... With your member vigilance, and contributions, we hope to make fewer and fewer errors until the proper systems are put into place that will allow things to run like clockwork regardless of who's in office."
"We want our family members that are over there in that cemetery to rest in peace," said McClellan. "I bet they're tired of rolling over in their graves."
Moving on, the board is still researching options for purchase of land for expansion, but there aren't any options since there's no land connected to the cemetery that's available right now. The board hadn't discussed a structure for cremated remains.
As the 2010 constitution only allowed owners of plots to vote, not family members of people buried in the cemetery, Hostetler moved to grant a variance to allow all members to vote at the meeting; Joyce Knoll seconded the motion and it was approved.
The membership approved a change to the board's meeting schedule, calling for the board to hold quarterly meetings instead of monthly, and allowing for specially-called meetings.
Mildred Jones recommended that the board not perform an audit--which could cost at least $4,000--unless the board wanted to find and prosecute wrongdoing. The checkbook was balanced and bank statements reconciled, as Jones suggested. The membership voted to remove the recommendation for an audit with 50 for and 2 opposed.
As the cemetery doesn't make enough on plot purchases to cover maintenance--McClellan reported $12,838 per year on just maintenance--the members were asked to approve a donation suggestion. The members approved asking for a suggested $25 per year per family donation (not per person or per plot). The donations would be tax-deductible.
The "heart" of the meeting, as McClellan put it, came next: the membership was asked to consider the new constitution and bylaws. Member Marshall Bayless immediately moved to table the documents.
McClellan asked Bayless to hold off and reported the events leading up to the new documents. As the old constitution had never been found, a new one was written up in 2010. Tina Gourley, in 2010, wrote the needed bylaws. The constitution and bylaws didn't mesh, however. Clara Gourley, Jon Warren, and T.D. Smylie were tagged to write or rewrite the documents so they reconciled. McClellan said the documents were posted at the cemetery, on blancoguide.com, and copies given out to people who asked for them.
McClellan explained that the rules are needed to keep the organization accountable regardless of who is on the board--the new documents provide checks and balances. She also added that amendments could be made by the membership.
Bayless commented that he didn't disagree but said that the new constitution added items that were "harmful" to the members and the board.
The meeting was handed over to Clara Gourley and Jon Warren, who addressed the concerns they had heard about.
The membership voted down the motion to table the new documents, 20 for and 29 opposed. A motion was made to accept the constitution and bylaws, passing 41 for and 21 opposed.
To close out the meeting, McClellan asked for nominations to fill the board of directors--Howerton and McClellan's terms expired--and whether the board could continue with six members instead of the seven.
A member made a motion to nominate and elect McClellan and Howerton, which was approved. Another motion approved keeping the number of directors at six.
After the meeting adjourned, the board members convened to a meeting to vote on the officer positions, which remained the same. McClellan is president, Diane Hostetler is vice-president, Connie Russell is secretary, Rebecca Howerton is grounds superintendent, and Dennis Moore is treasurer.
If you need to reach the association about your membership, certificates, or for any other questions, call Gail McClellan at 830-833-4229.