TO:                  Mayor and Town Council


FROM:            Council Member Dorothy Verkerk, Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force Chair


SUBJECT:       Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force Recommendations for Cemetery Improvements Utilizing $150,000 in Available Funding


DATE:             October 11, 2004



Approval of the attached resolution would authorize the Town Manager to allocate $150,000 in available funding to make improvements to the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery as recommended by the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force.  Attachment 1 provides a summary of how the funding is proposed to be allocated among the several discrete improvement projects recommended at this time.




On August 26, 2003, the Council approved a resolution authorizing a revision to the University’s Master Plan permitting construction of the Cobb parking deck and chiller plant.  That resolution included stipulations that required that the University restore the perimeter stone walls of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery and contribute $100,000 to a fund to be used for other Cemetery improvements.  The stipulation also called for the creation of a joint Town and University task force to make recommendations on the use of the available funds.  On November 10, 2003, the Council approved a budget ordinance allocating $50,000 from the fund balance to the Cemetery Beautification project account in the Capital Improvements Fund to provide a total of $150,000 in available funding.  On January 12, 2004, the Council appointed members to the joint Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force.  In total, six members were appointed by the Council and six by the University and include:


Town Appointees:


Council Member Dorothy Verkerk (chair), Rebecca Clark, Catherine Frank, Steven Moore, Faison Sessoms, and Cat Williams.


University Appointees:


Jill Coleman, Paul Kapp, Kirk Pelland, Bruce Runberg, John Sanders, and Bland Simpson.


In the spring of 2004, the Task Force met four times and through these discussions identified a variety of needed Cemetery improvements.  In the summer of 2004, three Task Force subcommittees were formed that met and considered prioritizing improvements related to three specific areas of identified need: historic preservation, pedestrian improvements, and archives and public information.  On September 22, 2004, the Task Force reconvened and developed a composite list of recommended improvements.  During this meeting the Task Force unanimously agreed to recommend allocating $50,000 for pedestrian-related improvements, including pathway lighting and improved signage, $45,000 for archives and public information improvements, and $3,000 to repair damage related to the roots and stump of a large declining maple tree.  By a 6 to 1 vote, the Task Force also agreed to recommend that $52,000 be allocated to restore the cast iron fences surrounding the historic Dialectic and Philanthropic Society plots.  A summary of this meeting is attached (Attachment 2).




The list of improvements considered by the Task Force for recommendation included an estimated $350,000 in projects.  In developing the list of highest priority projects to be funded with the $150,000 currently available, it was therefore necessary to exclude some of these needed projects.  Consideration was given to those improvements that the Task Force believed would provide the most notable and immediate impact.  The Task Force recommends that the Council consider future requests for funding to implement the $200,000 in remaining improvements they have identified.




The Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force recommends that the Council adopt the attached resolution authorizing the Town Manager to allocate $150,000 in available funding to implement improvements to the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery as described in this report.




  1. Task Force Recommended Improvements (p. 4).
  2. September 22, 2004 Task Force Meeting Summary (p. 5).




WHEREAS, the Council established the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force to develop recommendations for utilizing $150,000 in available funding for improvements to the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery; and


WHEREAS, the Council has considered the recommendations of the Task Force for use of this available funding;


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the Town of Chapel Hill that the Town manager is authorized to allocate $150,000 in available funding for improvements to the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery as recommended by the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force and as described in the report to the Council dated October 11, 2004.


This the 11th day of October 2004.




Old Chapel Hill Cemetery

Task Force Recommended Improvements

September 22, 2004








Historic Preservation




Repair Di and Phi Cast Iron Fences




Maple Stump Removal and Adjacent Marker Repair

+/- $3,000



Prioritized Marker Restoration

$10,000 - $50,000



Pedestrian Improvements




Light 2 Primary Pathways (with 20% Contingency)




Install Benches

 $4,000- $10,000



Install Stone Entrance Markers at Primary Paths

+/- $4,000



Install Pole-Mounted Directional Signage

$1,000 - $2,000



Repair Stone Pathway Gutters

+/- 50,000



Plant Large Trees Adjacent to Pathways with Town Labor where Adequate Town-Owned Land Exists

 $1,000 - $4,000



Archives and Public Information




Replace Redesigned Gazebo Interpretive Information

+/- $5,000



*  Cover Study Costs and Implement Improvements Recommended by Archives Graduate Student

$20,000 - $120,000



Republish Redesigned Cemetery Brochure

+/- $5,000







Estimated Total Cost of Possible/Proposed Improvements

$200,000 - $350,000



* Archives improvements could include:


1.      Compilation and acid-free reproduction of all significant OCHC documents uncovered during archival research, and distribution to the Chapel Hill Public Library, The North Carolina Collection and elsewhere as deemed appropriate,

2.      Computer scanning and digital storage of significant OCHC documents

3.      Development of a publicly available computer based inventory of cemetery interments, including available historic reference information,

4.      Development of a OCHC web page for internet access to computer based information, and

5.      Design and installation of an information kiosk and/or other public outreach improvements.



Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force

Regular Meeting, 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

First Floor Conference Room, Town Hall




Members Present:  Council Member Dorothy Verkerk (chair), Rebecca Clark, Catherine Frank, Bland Simpson, Jill Coleman, Steven Moore, Kirk Pelland

Absent:  Paul Kapp, Bruce Runberg, Faison Sessoms, Cat Williams, John Sanders


Staff Attending:  Curtis Brooks, Emily Cameron


The Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force met in the Council conference room at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, September 22, 2004.  Council Member Verkerk convened the meeting by reviewing the charge given to the Task Force by the Town Council to recommend ways to spend $150,000 on improvements to the cemetery.


She indicated that she wanted to try to get on the Council’s agenda in the next 2 to 3 weeks.


Curtis Brooks referred to materials in the agenda packet distributed at the meeting and began with the minutes of the historic preservation subcommittee meeting held on June 30. He described the recommendation of the subcommittee to spend $52,000 toward restoration of the Di and Phi cast iron fences. The subcommittee reported that a commitment of an additional $10,000 had been made from an outside source. A contractor from Alabama is willing to come dismantle and transport the fence for restoration and reinstallation. UNC has agreed to rebuild the base that supports the fence.


Steven Moore suggested that the amount of money being proposed for use on the Di and Phi fences could be distributed to help improve other fences in the cemetery that may be in need of repair.  He also thought that additional bids should be solicited for the iron work.


Rebecca Clark agreed that other fences needed refurbishing.


Catherine Frank said that she felt the Di and Phi supporters could contribute more than $10,000 toward the work on the Di and Phi fences.


Jill Coleman, noting the high cost of quality restoration work, questioned how much work could be accomplished if the $52,000 were allocated for multiple fence repairs.


Bland Simpson indicated that he is a past member of the Di-Phi Society and that he currently works with the student Di-Phi group. He stated that the $10,000 is from a private group and that he didn’t believe the student group had additional money to contribute. He was hopeful that the work proposed by the Task Force could be the first phase of on-going efforts to enhance the cemetery and that if quality restoration was done to the Di-Phi fences it may set an example for future projects.


Kirk Pelland indicated that he felt that $52,000 seemed like a lot to spend on one component of the proposed improvements. He stated that at a minimum the Task Force could contribute $10,000 for the Di-Phi fences to match the $10,000 contribution. He felt that the fence being consumed by the maple tree was the most unsightly and should take priority.


Chair Verkerk suggested that one approach could be to issue a challenge to Di and Phi supporters indicating that further contributions from them could be matched by the Town.


Steven Moore asked what level of improvement was the goal of the Task Force. He again recommended using the $52,000 for more than one project.


Chair Dorothy Verkerk suggested that stabilization rather than “perfection” may be a reasonable goal for an historic property such as the cemetery.


Curtis Brooks stated that Paul Kapp had done the research and communicated with the potential contractor, emphasizing that Paul would be the best person to answer questions on the selection of the Di-Phi fence restoration specialist and the exact methods proposed for the work.


Most task force members agreed that the Di-Phi fences are the most prominent and should be treated accordingly.


Curtis Brooks continued the staff report with recommendations from the pedestrian improvements subcommittee, with lighting as the primary component. He indicated on the construction plans where proposed pedestrian crosswalks would connect the campus to the cemetery on the north side thereby increasing pedestrian traffic on two of the existing pathways. Lighting is proposed that would direct pedestrians to the crosswalks, increase safety and reduce vandalism. He added that the goal is to make the cemetery more secure, not to brighten the cemetery so much that the lighting is noticeable from adjacent areas.


He continued with a photo and description of the Holophane Arlington light fixture selected for its similar appearance to the existing historic campus fixtures. Curtis Brooks added that Paul Kapp was familiar with the selection and is considering it for use on campus. Based on the layout prepared by the manufacturer’s representative, a total of eleven Arlington fixtures could be installed along the two walkways leading to the proposed crosswalks. The proposed lights would be Town-maintained. He reviewed the proposal and cost estimate from Outdoor Lighting and noted the added contingency in the staff total of $48,000.


Other recommendations forwarded by the pedestrian improvements subcommittee included stone markers with plaques at the entry points, and small directional signs.


He noted that the stone-lined gutters have become a tripping hazard and need to be raised for safety reasons and that a new gutter is needed on the west side of the western path to control the flow of runoff.  He suggested that the available funding may not be sufficient to cover the cost of gutter work at this time.


Steven Moore stated that there is a drainage problem on the east side.


Curtis Brooks responded that the $40,000 cost estimate for the stone gutters includes all of the paths. He continued describing the possibility of planting trees along the central path where the Town owns a 10-foot strip on either side. Trees planted there would not interfere with grave sites. In the historical context, cedar trees would be a likely choice, although a few hardwoods would be appropriate as well. The Town could order and install the trees.


Chair Verkerk reviewed the recommendations from the Archives and Public Information Subcommittee. The first suggestion is to improve and replace the interpretive display at the gazebo. The new display should include a map, directions on how to get more information, and contact numbers for questions and concerns. She then referred to the copy of an email from UNC Professor David Carr in which he suggested that library science graduate students could be found to locate paper and electronic records pertaining to the cemetery, assess any problems and make a plan with the assistance of a UNC faculty advisor for how to reproduce, store and maintain the records.


Another recommendation from the Archives and Public Information Subcommittee is to create a website with a searchable database accessible to the public. Mr. Brooks noted that this would likely require the services of a website designer. Chair Verkerk then added that the fourth suggestion is to update and reprint the brochure. Steven Moore the need for having brochures would be minimized somewhat by developing the website and emphasized that the website would also need ongoing maintenance.


Chair Verkerk stated that the group now needed to prioritize the recommendations in order to distribute the allocated funding and complete their charge as directed by the Council.


Bland Simpson inquired about the status of the west wall.


Jill Coleman reported that work has started in the form of surveying and clearing. However, the schedule for completion is not set at this time.


Bland Simpson mentioned that he does give annual tours of the cemetery at Halloween and at commencement.


Jill Coleman asked if the charge given by the Town Council provided any guidance as to how to prioritize spending.


Chair Verkerk responded that the funding from the Town and the University was allocated to improve and enhance the cemetery. She stated that while she supports funding for the Di and Phi fence restoration because the fences are so prominent, the Town Council may have questions about the amount to be spent. She suggested that the task force may need to consider an alternative recommendation in the event the Council does not approve the full amount for the Di and Phi fences.


The group agreed to recommend the $3000 for tree stump removal and marker repair associated with the Dialectic Society fence work.


Postponing momentarily further discussion of the $52,000 for the Di-Phi fences, discussion moved on to the pedestrian improvements. The group agreed that lighting could be budgeted at $44,000, the markers denoting the cemetery as listed on the National Register of Historic Places for $4,000, small directional signs for $1,000, and tree plantings for $1,000. Those discussing the recommendation for benches decided that they were secondary to the other needs and could be pursued later.


Regarding the archival and public information strategies, the task force decided by consensus that $40,000 should be dedicated to assess the status of the cemetery records and implement recommendations of library science graduate students. The members also agreed to suggest $5,000 to improve the interpretive display at the gazebo.


Bland Simpson indicated that public interest in the cemetery is high. Timely publicity could result in contributions of archival information and/or additional funding.


Chair Verkerk suggested that announcements could be placed in local church bulletins to solicit assistance.


Staff said they would modify the table of recommendations and cost estimates to reflect decisions made during the meeting and circulate it to the task force.


Jill Coleman made a motion seconded by Kirk Pelland to go ahead with the recommendation to allocate $52,000 to restore the Di-Phi fences, to be extended with the $10,000 contribution from the private source. Six members voted in favor of the motion (Dorothy Verkerk, Jill Coleman, Bland Simpson, Kirk Pelland, Rebecca Clark, and Catharine Frank); one was opposed (Steven Moore).


Curtis Brooks suggested that if the recommendations by the task force were approved by the Town Council, the timing of the improvements may be such that trees could be planted this fall and lighting and markers installed in the spring of 2005. The display in the gazebo could move forward, but may be influenced by the outcome of the archival or website efforts.


Chair Verkerk suggested that a ceremony heralding the improvements should take place at the cemetery.


Curtis Brooks recommended that a ceremony would be particularly appropriate after the lighting has been installed.


Jill Coleman reported that progress was being made on the University’s Memorial Grove project located adjacent to the cemetery on the east side. She described steps proposed to be installed in the existing stone wall to provide a connection between the two sites. She asked if the task force had any comments on that proposal. The members voiced no objections to the proposed steps.


The meeting adjourned at approximately 7:10 p.m.