Clean-up to begin next week

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Expect the grass to be cut regularly.

Expect to see the junked vehicles removed, potholes filled and roads repaired.

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In other words, expect the unexpected.

W. Michael Robinson and William Mann, the new owners of Carver Memorial Cemetery, say they plan to invest from $40,000 to $60,000 cleaning up the cemetery that has historically catered to Suffolk’s black community.

For years, the cemetery has been neglected, a situation that became so bad early this year the state Cemetery Board refused former owner Abraham Applewhite Sr.’s appeal to re-license the cemetery.

Last year, the state Department of Occupational and Professional Regulation’s enforcement division investigated several complaints against Applewhite’s operation of the cemetery. Most complaints were related to the lack of maintenance at the perpetual-care cemetery: overgrown grass, improperly maintained roadways, abandoned vehicles, and the like.

Change will be coming as early as next week, when the debris and junk behind the cemetery is carted away, Mann said.

&uot;We are here for long term,&uot; he said. &uot;This is an older African-American cemetery that needs to be turned around. We think we can do that … and make this a cemetery that will make the citizens of Suffolk proud.&uot;

A key player in making that change happen is Carver’s new manager, Vincent Newby, the retired director of Norfolk’s public cemetery program.

Beginning next week, he will be at the cemetery Monday through Friday.

&uot;It’s going to be a challenge,&uot; Newby said. &uot;We’re going to be working hard for the next couple of months.

&uot;The first thing we have to do is to back to a revenue generating status,&uot; he said.

Newby expects the company to file its application for a cemetery license with the state early next week.

Mary Broz, state DPOR spokeswoman, doesn’t anticipate any problems issuing the license.

Dealing with the roadway problems will be one of his first priorities, Newby said.

Although paving may not be done immediately, it is in the long-range plan, added Robinson.

&uot;People will see some immediate, visible changes,&uot; Robinson said. &uot;We have a plan of attack (to address these issues)…but you have to crawl before you walk.&uot;

In coming weeks, the company is planning to have a community forum to answer questions and hear concerns from Suffolk residents.

&uot;We realize the first thing we need to do is to get the confidence of the community,&uot; Mann said. &uot;…Mr. (Abraham) Applewhite Sr. is not involved in this business.&uot;

But his son, Abraham Jr., will be helping out at the cemetery – probably on a temporary basis – until Newby is settled and familiar with the site, Mann said.