Thursday, December 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Special district watches over local cemeteries

23 suisun-fairfield cemetery 001

Rick Humphrey mows the grass at the Suisun-Fairfield Cemetery in Fairfield, Tuesday. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | April 06, 2014 |

Editor’s note: This is part of a periodic series that looks at Solano County’s special districts.

FAIRFIELD — Suisun Fairfield Rockville Cemetery District leaders face plenty of decisions as they run two local cemeteries using taxpayers’ money.

Decisions about whether to buy more land. Decisions about how to spend money after seeing big drops in property tax income during the Great Recession. Decisions about how to improve the local public cemeteries.

Cemeteries may be for the dead, but the living keep them operating.

“We provide a service to the community,” district General Manager Doris Goodrich said. “The taxpayers support this cemetery. We’re there to serve them.”

The Suisun Fairfield Rockville Cemetery District is a special district run by a board of trustees appointed by the Solano County Board of Supervisors. The district operates the Suisun Fairfield Cemetery on Union Avenue in Fairfield and the Rockville Cemetery on Rockville Road in rural Suisun Valley.

About 79 to 100 burials take place at the two cemeteries each year. The district’s job is to keep these two cemeteries operating and in good condition.

Million-dollar budget

Revenues in the latest budget total just more than $1 million. Expenditures total $1.3 million, in part because the district is doing road work within the two cemeteries and is using savings.

A good chunk of the revenue comes from property taxes. With the housing market meltdown, the district saw tax money fall from $826,194 in 2009 to $693,648 in 2011, a 16 percent drop. The latest budget calls for taking in $691,000 in taxes, though rising property values could boost it further.

“We lost a lot of tax revenue,” Goodrich said. “What happened is we had to raise the fees for our plots. Whenever the tax raises decreases, we have to increase our services.”

In addition, the number of people being buried at the two local cemeteries dropped with the opening of the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, she said. The cemetery for veterans opened near Dixon in 2006.

An adult burial at either the Rockville Cemetery or the Suisun Fairfield Cemetery costs $2,048.

The Solano County Auditor-Controller’s Office audits the cemetery district. Recent audits show no reporting issues.

Monthly meetings

The board of trustees meets monthly, alternating between the offices at the Suisun Fairfield Cemetery and the Rockville Cemetery. Members are James Robinson, Todd Bertani, Wayne Engell, Mary Ellsworth, John Estes, Earl Kilmer and Dot Little.

Trustees had their Jan. 13 meeting around a table in the small Rockville Cemetery office starting at 8:30 a.m., with coffee and doughnuts available. A few members of the public, such as Craig Bryan of Bryan-Braker Funeral Home, came and went over the next two hours.

One item of business was whether to buy land next to the Rockville Cemetery. Goodrich says the cemetery already has about 200 years worth of plots, but the adjacent land would push this out to 400 years.

“We thought this is for sale, we should purchase it now while there’s an opportunity,” Goodrich said.

But the trustees learned at the January meeting that this opportunity appears gone, at least for the present.

There’s no immediate need to buy land to expand the Suisun Fairfield Cemetery. About five acres remain there and Goodrich said this should last 100 years.

Fairfield recently annexed about 2,288 acres near Travis Air Force Base for its next growth frontier. It worked with the district to make provisions for a cemetery there. Fairfield is to give the district 25 acres to 35 acres near its planned Great Park.

The district has 30 years to accept the offer. It’s in no hurry.

“That’s something the board at the time will have to decide, if they actually need the land,” Goodrich said. “It is a large amount of expense to develop property and run a water line and put in roads.”

But, though space might remain at the Rockville and Suisun Fairfield cemeteries, Goodrich noted that the new community Fairfield is building several miles away might want to be served by a cemetery that is closer.

A citizen spoke to trustees at the Jan. 13 meeting about installing a bench in the Rockville Cemetery gazebo, inscribed with the name of a deceased loved one. Trustees subsequently walked out to the gazebo, a hexagon-shaped area of cement with a metal roof and niches for cremates. They tried to figure out where a bench could go without hindering the ceremonies that take place there. They discussed possible prices.

And they discussed ways to lower watering costs at the Suisun Fairfield Cemetery. Irrigation is done with treated city water. Goodrich said the summer watering bill comes to $13,000 to $17,000 every two months.

Hooking into the North Bay Aqueduct to get untreated water for irrigation appeared out. Drilling wells was a possibility.

Members of the board of trustees came to their positions in various ways. Robinson often walks near the Suisun Fairfield Cemetery. One day, the then-manager came out and asked him if he wanted a job serving on the board.

Estes joined the board in about 2007. A county supervisor called him and asked him if he was interested in the position.

Little was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 1998. Her ancestors, the Alford and Barber families, donated land for the cemetery in pioneer days.

“I decided it was my turn to do something for the cemetery, so I came on the board,” she said.

A long history

Rockville Cemetery on rural Rockville Road has a history spanning from the days of the covered wagon to the days of hybrid and electric autos. It dates back to the 1850s.

Landy Alford, a wealthy Suisun Valley farmer, in 1856 deeded two acres for $50 to the Methodist Episcopal Church South for a stone chapel and for the cemetery. The Alfords’ 3-year-old daughter died in December 1856 and became among the first buried there.

Historically prominent names can be founded on these aging tombstones. Buried at Rockville Cemetery is Granville Swift, one of the men who held Gen. Mariano Vallejo as a hostage during the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846. He died in 1876.

“The valley cemetery at Rockville, there are generations of families that are buried there,” Goodrich said. “They want to be in their family plots or close to family.”

The other cemetery, Suisun Fairfield Cemetery on Union Avenue in Fairfield, also has roots back to the 1850s. Among those buried there is Josiah Wing, who founded Suisun City.

Over time, a public cemetery and cemeteries owned by the Masons, Odd Fellows and Catholic Church developed in this area, then on the outskirts of town. So by the 1920s, the area had several cemeteries, none of which had anything to do with special districts and taxpayers’ money.

But the cemeteries hit hard times. A group of Fairfield women tried in vain to raise enough money to hire someone to cut weeds, plant flowers and do other chores at the Fairfield cemetery. During the summer of 1924, citizens circulated a petition to form a cemetery district that could use property tax dollars to do the job.

“Those acquainted here are cognizant of the deplorable condition of the public cemetery and that the district will be formed is not doubted,” the July 3, 1924, Solano Republican reported. The Republican was the Daily Republic’s predecessor.

Three trustees would oversee the district. They would decide the amount of money needed to maintain the cemetery and this would be placed on the tax rolls, the paper said.

On Sept. 2, 1924, the Solano County Board of Supervisors formed what it called the Suisun Fairfield Cemetery District.

That proved to be only a start. On March 2, 1925, the Board of Supervisors created the Rockville Public Cemetery District, again with three trustees.

“There was a request from the farmers and taxpayers here,” Goodrich said.

Meanwhile, the 1856 stone chapel owned by the Methodist Episcopal Church next to Rockville Cemetery had fallen on hard times and needed repairs. In 1929, the Methodist Episcopal Church South deeded it to the Rockville Cemetery District.

In 2007, the Suisun Fairfield and Rockville cemetery districts merged. That allowed them to eliminate the meandering district boundary between them and to combine finances. The late Jim Campi, who became a trustee on the Rockville Cemetery District in 1975 and served as board chairman for 38 years, helped with the merger effort.

Solano County has three other cemetery districts. They are the Vacaville-Elmira, Silveyville and Rio Vista-Montezuma districts.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • mescApril 06, 2014 - 9:02 am

    Thank you Barry Eberling. I appreciate these local information pieces. Walking in the Rockville Cemetery is a walk in history.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Solano College trustees move back ‘home’

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Needs of small dog give Solano man life’s mission

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

     
    Christmas comes early for prenatal program participants

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Police chief: Suisun crime up 3 percent in 2014

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Council OKs $65,730 pact to advocate for Travis base

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

    Fairfield pays $42,500 to settle soil suit

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    Jury convicts teen for role in 2012 DeBartolo’s heist

    By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
     
    Fairfield police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Suisun City police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    Suisun City police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Fairfield police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    .

    US / World

     
    Fears fanned by hackers bring down Sony film

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Like Iran, secret diplomacy leads to US-Cuba thaw

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Pope played crucial role in US-Cuba rapprochement

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US travel industry carefully eyeing Cuba tourism

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    US-Cuba thaw could benefit farmers, energy and travel firms

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

     
    Freed American endured years of declining health

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US, Cuba patch torn relations in historic accord

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Bay Bridge light sculpture to keep on shining

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Study: Huge wildfire supports need for controlled burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    A fresh setback for efforts to cure HIV infection

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    14 charged in deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Study: Alcatraz inmates could have survived escape

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Nigerian court sentences 54 soldiers to death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    Colombian rebels announce unilateral cease-fire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Russians flock to stores to pre-empt price rises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    Pakistan buries victims of school massacre

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    .

    Opinion

    Asia needs to prepare for a possible China crash

    By William Pesek | From Page: A7

     
    Tortured roots of enhanced interrogations

    By Walter Pincus | From Page: A7

    Editorial Cartoons: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Crime Witness Protocol 101

    By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

     
    My siblings don’t want to replace abusive mother’s pacemaker

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

    .

    Entertainment

    25 movies chosen for the National Film Registry

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

     
    Saving Private Ryan’ among films being preserved

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    TVGrid

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Sports

    Falcons cruise by crushers in girls basketball

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    49ers release McDonald amid further legal trouble

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Carr faces another tough test in rookie season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    For MLB, changes in Cuba will take time to sort out

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Garcia resigns as FIFA prosecutor

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Chattanooga women stun No. 7 Stanford 54-46

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Track coach Drummond gets 8-year doping suspension

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Warriors’ Bogut out with knee injury vs. Thunder

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    AP source: Romo close to $15M, 2-year deal with Giants

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Baseball monitoring White House Cuba decision

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    APNewsBreak: Judge rejects NCAA concussions deal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Painkillers lawsuit against NFL dismissed; may be appealed

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    .

    Business

    McDonald’s in Japan limits orders of fries

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Amid scrutiny, Uber says it will focus more on safety

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    Health care exchange sign-ups exceeding last year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Fed to be ‘patient’ about a rate hike; stocks soar

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    .

    Obituaries

    Jennie Ponce Reyes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Marian L. “Chicki” Downs

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9