Help pouring in for Riverside Cemetery pond

T-R FILE PHOTO Since news that Lake Woodmere at Riverside Cemetery, pictured, was drying up first became public over the summer, various individuals and organizations have proposed solutions to supply water, including, most recently, the cities of Albion and Marshalltown.

Lake Woodmere at the historic Riverside Cemetery is in desperate need of water, and in the last 24 hours, glimmers of assistance have begun to sparkle.

The pond, which is a scenic feature for the many visitors of the cemetery, has been losing water steadily since January. It was then that Marshalltown Water Works re-evaluated its agreements with businesses for free water service and determined that Riverside’s free supply of water in exchange for the treatment center dumping below the bluffs would end.

Riverside General Manager Dorie Tammen shut the waterline to Lake Woodmere down last fall and quickly realized the issue at hand. The pond is leaking, and Riverside cannot afford water service.

Suddenly, some sense of help has arrived. First, Albion City Maintenance Director Scott Giannetto came up with a way to lend a hand. Albion currently flushes its hydrants twice a month, on the second and third Monday, until the ground freezes. Rather than simply releasing the water, Giannetto proposed filling up and bringing it to Riverside.

Albion Mayor Pat Hemming and the city council not only thought it was a good idea — they encouraged putting the plan in motion right away. Giannetto contacted Riverside to share the idea, and Albion intends to make a delivery during its next flushing on Oct. 10. The mode of transporting the water still remains to be decided.

The second act of assistance came during Monday’s Marshalltown City Council meeting. Councilman Mike Ladehoff asked for Lake Woodmere to appear as a discussion item on the agenda, so he could propose a way the city can help. Ladehoff said he consulted with legal counsel and even state auditor Rob Sand to clarify how the council may approve funding to install a well at Riverside Cemetery.

Sand’s response, which was shared with the Times-Republican via email, suggests the city can enter a contract with Riverside for goods and/or services if the cemetery can “provide something of sufficient value to the public.”

“I’m of the opinion the community uses Riverside so much — especially Ward 1 and 2 — it’s almost more a park than a cemetery,” Ladehoff said. “I’m advancing the notion that we use LOST (local option sales tax) for this.”

Ladehoff said $43,000 is a close estimate for what drilling and installing the well will cost. David Shearer, a member of the Marshalltown Cemetery Association, said the cost could be lower, but there are several variables which will not be known until drilling starts.

Councilman Gary Thompson also supported the idea and guessed that the actual cost will come in lower than $43,000. He also tried to clear up any confusion about the city’s role with the cemetery.

“A high percentage of people think it’s the city’s. That shows the way it’s viewed,” he said. “Everybody that grew up here knew you went down there to feed the ducks. What Mike is proposing — again — is the right thing to do to save a national treasure that’s right in our city.”

Shearer expounded upon Tammen’s reasoning for believing Riverside could not afford water service, estimating it would cost $2,000 to $4,000 per month. He also lauded how special and unique the cemetery is as an attraction in Marshalltown; Lake Woodmere being a part of the whole package.

“In the ’40s, it was designated as one of the top 10 cemeteries in the nation,” Shearer said. “I’d imagine we’d still be up there. It’s a true treasure.”

The Cemetery Association circulated a petition to urge the council to help, and it received more than 2,000 signatures, according to Shearer.

The council approved a motion to direct staff to work with legal counsel in preparing an agreement with Riverside Cemetery. An agreement will include a clause to not exceed $45,000 in funding toward the well project.


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