Since the 1930s, Riverside Cemetery has housed the town’s departed loved ones.
In other parts of the country, cemeteries are often under private ownership or run by the city. Riverside, however, receives its funding from a Park County levy. Because it is a steward of public funds with the ability to levy taxes for its operations, Riverside is overseen by a locally elected board of trustees.
Four people – incumbents Tara Hart, Chan Richard and Gary Williams, along with challenger Greg Blenkinsop – are vying for three seats on the board this year. Though “not much major ever happens here,” according to general manager Sam Welch, the board still oversees an operating budget of over $700,000 and cash reserves totaling nearly $2 million.
Hart, the current board chair, is running for the volunteer position to continue the work she has done for the last 16 years.
“I enjoy being on it for the public service,” Hart said. “We have a beautiful cemetery, one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the United States.”
Hart has been part of the team that oversaw the construction of the committal shelter and the Riverside-Graham expansion on Cooper Lane, which uses wastewater irrigation to reduce the burden on the city, a move she says saves the taxpayers money.
A former government lawyer who now works in private practice, challenger Blenkinsop now has the time to give back to the community.
“The cemetery is a special place for me. I have family members interred there,” he said. “I think I have something to offer the district with my experience and expertise.”
Blenkinsop said he didn’t have any plans to make major changes to the cemetery but wanted it to continue to be “outstanding.”
Williams, the current vice-chair of the board and member for more than a decade and a half, sees the current state of the economy as a reason for fiscal conservatism from the board and views it as his responsibility to continue to be a good overseer of the cemetery’s funds.
“The biggest thing is the tax revenue base is just getting tighter and tighter,” Williams said. “Myself on the board or any other board member, we just really have to watch the expenditures. We have to give the taxpayer the best deal they can get.”
For their part, Williams thinks the taxpayers have gotten a good deal, saying he would “put our cemetery up against anyone’s.”
Richard could not be reached for comment for this story.