NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Sunset Memorial Park was established in 1946 by the City of Nacogdoches. In 1954 a trust fund was established to provide perpetual care. Its usefulness has run its course according to city leaders.
“Although the original purpose was certainly a good one for the care of the cemetery, over the years the trust has become unworkable," said city attorney Jeff Davis.
Davis explains there are restrictions on annual withdrawals from the $285,000 trust balance. This means not enough funds can be withdrawn to pay for the work needed. In order to dissolve the trust, the city got approval from the state legislature to amend the Texas Health and Safety Code.
"Otherwise we couldn't have done it under the law," according to Davis.
The option to terminate the fund stems from House Bill 2198. The legislation, introduced by Texas State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, and sponsored by Texas State Sen. Robert Nichols, went into effect Sept. 1, 2019.
It allows municipalities “in a county with a population of at least 40,000 but not more than 80,000 and that contains a portion of the Angelina National Forest may abolish the municipality’s perpetual trust fund for a cemetery and use the fund."
City council plans to dissolve the trust so a quarter of a million dollars-plus can be used to address needed improvements. Community services director Brian Bray has the list prepared.
“We'll be able to add an infant section. We'll be able to add security lighting. And the roadways. There's a lot of asphalt," he said.
City leaders say the perpetual care of Sunset Memorial Park will not stop.
"We're keeping in the same spirit as the trust was originally set up to do," assured Bray.
"In no way any less of an obligation of the city to continue to maintain the perpetuity of all of its cemeteries," said Davis.
The city council will have the final say as to how the freed funds would be spent. Separate from the trust fund, the city is planning to open a new section. Sunset remains the largest and fastest-growing cemetery of the three public cemeteries.