Pioneer Cemetery concerns raised with widening of county road

County Engineer Myron Parizek meets with the board of supervisors.

VINTON – Plans to widen the road north of Blairstown might mean running into hitting graves in unseen cemeteries, according to members of the cemetery commission. The cemetery is Stringtown Cemetery.

Pioneer Cemetery Commission members were at the Benton County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, June 23, and pointed out that all burial sites are protected from intentional disturbance, regardless of antiquity. The advised to county to reorient their plans to avoid any ground disturbance, specifically on the south side of 74th Street and west side of E-66.

This was from a note from the state archaeologist.

Commission members observed they don’t want “bones popping up” when the road is widened, which could lead to a family member seeing this and filing a lawsuit or a complaint.

Commission members said they are starting to survey the pioneer cemeteries in the county. Supervisor Chairman Richard Primmer said this would could be a good place to start, so they know where they are.

Primmer said the county definitely does not want things ground to a halt.

The moving of the burials would be paid by the families, commission members said.

Supervisor Tracy Seeman advised these older cemeteries have no vaults. There won’t be anything to be found after 100 years. County Attorney David Thompson added this can depend on wetness of the ground and how deep they were buried. He went into detail how remains are moved. Thompson stressed, “This is not going to be a quick process. You don’t want to do anything that disrupts the cemetery.”

Commission members also described the types of coffins used in the Victorian era. “It’d be mind boggling how many bodies are buried and you don’t know about,” said one commission member. “It’s just like ‘Gunsmoke.’ You bury them along the way.” He added there are families he buried bodies on their ground. Thompson further advised there might be bodies buried outside the boundaries of a cemetery, because they weren’t allowed to be buried in the cemetery.

Primmer said they should come back with a cost estimate for a ground penetration radar, and to visit with Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek. Primmer thanked the commission members for making them aware of this.

Parizek looked at the map provided by the commission later in the meeting. Primmer advised the cemetery is not marked and it has been farmed over. He added that the sign for it has been taken down.

Primmer asked if secondary roads could pay for the survey. Parizek was not sure and would have to look into that. He said he knows that this could halt a project.

The project is to widen the right of way to 50 feet. It is now 33 feet. Parizek wants to take out any more production lance than he needed. He pointed out that the right of way was originally 20 feet in 1875.


Seeman presented pictures of dead trees in a Watkins alley which need trimming, and are on county property. There is concern about damage caused if they fall. Seeman said he’d check in Watkins to see if there was anyone interested in the firewood, and get a price from a tree removal service. Primmer agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to get pricing.


Parizek had the following items approved.

– Purchase agreement(s) for temporary and permanent easements for bridge replacement project on V44, north of Luzerne , with Randy and Kelly Pickart, and EDK Farms LLC.

– Purchase agreement for temporary and permanent easements for bridge replacement project in Canton Township on 30th Ave. Dr. , with Schminke Farms.

– Resolution for wage and classification change for Grant Wittmer, mechanic, at $22.42 per hour, it being his one-year anniversary.

– Utility permit for East Central Iowa REC in Taylor Township , for a new house north of Vinton.

– Sign title sheet for bridge replacement project on V37 over Wolf Creek, north of Dysart. This will have special state funding 80 percent of the project. They are also working with Tama County on this. This will be next fall. It will be wider than the existing bridge, Parizek said.

Primmer talked with Parizek about garbage blowing onto people’s property in Shellsburg, coming from the county’s recycling trailer. Good people are using it responsibility, but a few are spoiling it for them all. If the site is shut down, it could mean more garbage in the ditches. Primmer said he had no problem getting rid of the trailer. This led to a discussion of where the recycling trailers are in Benton County. This will be on the agenda for next week (June 30.

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