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Beulah Cemetery restoration on hold again

[03/01/01] Once again, restoration of a historic black cemetery in Vicksburg is on hold because of costs and contract negotiations, and some of those involved say they are getting fed up.

Beulah, on the east end of Martin Luther King Boulevard, has been the target of restoration efforts since the 1970s. In 1986, a committee was formed to oversee the process. The cemetery was the final resting place for many of Vicksburg’s black residents until the 1940s when Cedar Hill Cemetery became more popular as a burial location. Over the years, weeds and vines covered most of Beulah.

The committee, after being rebuffed by city administrations because the cemetery is private property, found state funding to restore it in 1999 through a $50,000 state grant to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. City Hall was instructed by the Legislature to oversee the spending of the funds, but title searches and an inablility to find bidders delayed the project.

Originally, the deadline for completion was June 30, 2000. So far, there have been deadlines of Oct. 31, 2000, Dec. 31, 2000, and Wednesday, all of which have passed without much progress.

Yolande Robbins, head of the Beulah Restoration Committee that met to review the situation, said she worries that if the money isn’t spent by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, the committee will not be able to get any other funds.

After no bids were received in an initial round, a city contract for $19,980 was signed with Maynord Landscaping with instructions to finish in two months.

On Wednesday, deadline day, the project was still incomplete and Dudley Maynord said he would need more time and more money.

“Rain has delayed work,” Maynord said. “It will take two to three weeks of sunshine for the ground to dry.”

Maynord said the project would require another $15,000 to complete and could not be finished before May 30 because of new and thicker growth on the land.

He said his company would be willing to clear the front 9 or10 acres of the cemetery for $15,000 but Gloria Davenport of the restoration committee said she believes Maynord is responsible for the entire track, 15.8 acres.

City attorney Walterine Langford said Maynord should have taken weather into consideration before making his bid and is contractually obligated to do the job for $19,980. The next lowest bid was $27,000.

Maynord said he should not be punished for the weather and faces a $7,000 loss if the contract is taken.

A decision is expected at Monday’s city board meeting.