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June 9, 2017

Warrenton man pledges $10k for tombstone repairs

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Repairs to 88 Warrenton Cemetery headstones and monuments probably will cost less than $28,000, according to consultant.
I was glad we could lend a hand. I was really appalled that, in our little town, these kinds of things would happen.
— Matt Iten
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A longtime Warrenton resident recently pledged $10,000 to help restore vandalized headstones in the historic town cemetery.

“I was glad we could lend a hand,” real estate investor Matt Iten said of his donation. “I was really appalled that, in our little town, these kinds of things would happen.”

To date, the Fauquier Historical Society and the Town of Warrenton have received about $10,000 and $410, respectively to restore the headstones.

Mr. Iten, who moved to Fauquier as a child more than 50 years ago, will add his donation to the Fauquier Historical Society total.

“I want to jump up and down” over the donation, historical society board member Karen Lovitt said in a phone interview Thursday. “But, I can’t. I’m in a public place. I’m amazed.”

Late Wednesday night, April 12, or early the next day, vandals knocked down 92 headstones in the town-owned cemetery.

Repairing and restoring 88 of them could cost $15,005 to $28,430, according Pennsylvania-based Mosko Cemetery Monument Services.

> Report at bottom of story

“I wasn’t surprised by the high end on the range,” Town Manager Brannon Godfrey said. “I know what kind of meticulous work is required to restore those memorials and headstones . . . . It’s an expensive proposition to do it right, so they’ll last another 200 years.”

Mrs. Lovitt feared headstone repairs would exceed the consultant’s high-end projection.

“We were really relieved at the cost,” she said. “He knows his business, and he’s giving us a good price.”

In the end, consultant Robert Mosko suggested the restoration costs would be less than $28,430.

“Nine out of 10 times, we don’t use the maximum (estimated) cost, because conditions don’t turn out to be what we thought they were,” after conducting a detailed assessment, Mr. Mosko said. “You truly don’t know until you handle the stones.”

The town paid Mosko Cemetery Monument Services $600 for the 25-page report, Mr. Godfrey said.

Municipal staff members will review the report thoroughly and discuss a range of cemetery vandalism related issues with town council in July, he said. Key decisions include the process for selecting a contractor to do the restoration work.

To help pay for headstone repairs, the town might be able to tap the $112,131 in interest generated by its cemetery “perpetual care” fund, Mr. Godfrey suggested.

Including interest, that fund totals $598,077, according to the town.

Perpetual care fund money gets used to repair cemetery roads, gates, fences and the like, Mr. Godfrey said.

Monuments and headstones “are private assets,” thus the responsibility of “descendants,” the town manager said.

But, after 150 to 200 years, there may be no descendants to maintain gravestones, Mr. Godfrey said.

In that sense, headstones “really become, sort of by default, a public asset,” he said.

Thus, Mr. Godfrey identified the perpetual care fund as a “a possible source” to help pay repair costs. “I’m not 100 percent certain. But, I think it can be.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovitt, her daughter Maggie Lovitt and others have begun the process of establishing a nonprofit group called The Friends of the Warrenton Cemetery, which would focus on the maintenance of headstones.

Besides, the Lovitts and Mr. Iten, the new organization’s board will include:

• John McAuliff, owner of The Chilton House bed and breakfast in Warrenton.

• Carter Nevill, owner of Carter & Spence, a jewelry and gift store in Warrenton.

• Tony Padden, a volunteer with the Fauquier Historical Society’s Old Jail Museum in Warrenton.

• John Toler, Fauquier Times associate editor.

• Wendy Wheatcraft, Fauquier County government’s preservation planner.

Warrenton Cemetery 2017 Vandalism Assessment Report-Mosko by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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