Sunday, March 1, 2015
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 [email protected] 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
.

Solano News

Peace and patience: Quilters gear up for show

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1Comments are off for this post

 
School bands compete in Pageantry on Parade

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Calling someone a ‘smoker’ is hilarious

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

Conservancy plans next Quail Ridge Reserve walk

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Police seek suspect in armed robbery

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
4-H Presentation Day brings fun, education to Fairfield

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
What you eat can affect your medications

By Marilyn Ranson | From Page: C4

 
Rollover in Suisun City

By Aaron Rosenblatt | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

State schedules ramp closure at freeway project site

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

 
Vigil doesn’t pan out amid concerns

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A5

Appointments on tap for Board of Supervisors meet

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

 
Tri-City NAACP honors community members at gala event

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
CAASC 18th Annual Chinese New Year and Scholarship Celebration

By Steve Reczkowski | From Page: A5 | Gallery

NY, SF town house prices through the roof

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7

 
Parker Road restaurant does brisk business

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B7

 
Fairfield police log: Feb. 27, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Feb. 27, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Airmen with local ties finish basic training

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B10

Force draws many from South, middle class

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Christie to Calif. Republicans: No rush to pick 2016 nominee

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US missionary abducted in Nigeria is courageous, friends say

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

Dress that ‘greatly resembles’ stolen Nyong’o gown found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Weekend storm drops snow, rain, hail in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Churches, synagogues, mosques bear tough New England winter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Mother charged in death of infant found in California swamp

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Hyundai recalls 263,000 cars due to power-steering problem

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Blind dog rescued after being lost for 2 weeks in the cold

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Details about proposed national monuments in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
National monument supporters in California get antsy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Greece will not seek another bailout, prime minister says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Attacks kill 37 people in and north of Iraq’s capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

US drone strike in Yemen kills 3 suspected al-Qaida fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Nemtsov a possible ‘sacrificial victim,’ investigators say

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: March 1, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sound off for March 1, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
New school funding plan remains on bumpy path

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

Even Gruber deserves a break sometimes

By Megan Mcardle | From Page: A8

 
I might just vote for a Democrat next time around

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

Aging Fairfield housing agency faltering

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: March 1, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: March 1, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

With numbers falling, Houston-area nuns’ future uncertain

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Horoscopes: March 1, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

Kidney Walk participation helped give me a positive outlook on life

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

Take a look – Dr. Seuss has a new book

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Publisher launches line of Warhol e-books

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

Q&A: Opera star Deborah Voigt writes of turbulent life

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2Comments are off for this post

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

Review: ‘The Girl on the Train’ has realistic plot

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2Comments are off for this post

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

Vikings girls looking for first section title

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Local Report: Vaca’s Aquino wins Masters wrestling title

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Phegley hopes his style will catch on in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
A year after meeting Tiger, Indian golfer on the rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Jeff Gordon takes a final spin at track that meant so much

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Defending champ Federer beats Djokovic to retain Dubai title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Safarova beats Azarenka to win the Qatar Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Environmental activists disrupt meeting by Olympic officials

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hamilton hones Mercedes with fastest time at F1 testing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has surgery on cheekbone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Anthony Mason, rugged forward of 1990s Knicks, dies at 48

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Warriors center Festus Ezeli suspended for a game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Reichelt leads Austrian World Cup downhill sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Players’ union head: future spring games in Cuba possible

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Harrington takes 36-hole lead, then more rain in Florida

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Harvick wins Xfinity race at Atlanta for 3rd year in a row

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Stolen No. 44 NASCAR race car found in suburban Atlanta

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

For many in US, cash saved at gas pump is staying in pockets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Fruits and vegetables get a star-studded marketing push

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Historic snows causing headaches for real estate industry

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Nevada casinos keep $953.7 million in winnings in January

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Recalls this week: hand trucks, ceiling fans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Review: Freedom! These smartwatches leave the phone behind

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Greek prime minister rules out third bailout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Boy, 13, builds Braille printer with Legos, starts company

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9Comments are off for this post

AP Exclusive: Fuel-hauling trains could derail at 10 a year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Leah E. Hoffman

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Thomas Browning

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Jacqueline Mendes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
John W. Van Wart

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Lester Singer

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Virgil Albert Hanson

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics