TARPON SPRINGS — About six months ago, someone jumped the 2-foot-high wall surrounding Cycadia Cemetery and knocked over two cross headstones.
The broken granite, later discovered by an angry family, is just another case of cemetery vandalism in a string stretching back to the 1960s, said Tarpon Springs' director of public works, Paul Smith.
Intruders cloaked by night have nabbed metal vases, bronze plaques, and even a 70-year-old, 75-pound sphere memorializing the cemetery's founder.
"It has historically been a problem," Smith said. "The current fence doesn't discourage people from entering the cemetery, cutting through the cemetery at all hours of the day."
The city's discussions about what to do about vandalism in the city cemetery stretch back to the '60s,too. However, Smith has proposed a permanent solution: a new 6-foot-tall, wrought iron-style picket fence that would cost about $175,000.
The fence would be sleek black, Smith told city commissioners Tuesday, and attach to an automatic gate that opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. It would replace most of the wall that is there now. The cemetery would be visible through the fence.
Smith said that before writing a proposal, he consulted with the family of F. Kettrell Powell, a beloved community leader and permanent cemetery board member who died in 2010.
Powell cared deeply about the cemetery, Smith said. He, too, had wanted to increase security.
"He would've loved this — it's something he envisioned before he passed away," said Vice Mayor Chris Alahouzos. "This is something we've been waiting for."
Commissioners unanimously approved the fence plan and, after permits are obtained from Pinellas County, construction is scheduled to start by February.
The project will be paid for out of the cemetery's perpetual care fund.
Danielle Paquette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.