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Cemetery in Marshalltown fighting for FEMA funding after derecho destruction

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 9:21 PM CDT
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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (KCCI) - Marshalltown’s Riverside Cemetery is still making repairs after last August’s derecho destroyed many of its trees, fences and headstones. They’ve been denied by FEMA the funds necessary to make the thousands of dollars in repairs but are taking an interesting approach in appealing that decision, according to a report by KCCI.

The cemetery has racked up more than $800,000 on its tree removal bill. That’s now down to about $220,000 after they received loans, grants and donations. but it still needs some help from FEMA.

“We got a notice that our application was accepted and approved,” said Dorie Tammen, Riverside’s general manager. “The next thing I knew we had a letter saying that our application was denied and I was just dumbstruck-- broken-hearted.”

Tammen said she was told they do not qualify for FEMA funding because nonprofit cemeteries are specifically excluded from the list of nonprofit organizations that can receive funding.

But Tammen believes they’ve found a way to work around that exclusion if they can prove the nearly 100 acres of land have more meaning to the community than just a cemetery.

“If we can prove that it was perceived as a park and used as a park as much as it is a cemetery that might be grounds for an appeal of the decision,” Tammen said.

Tammen thinks she has a strong case. Riverside hosts a fishing derby in the pond every summer, it’s a popular place for walkers and joggers, and Tammen has turned the office into a makeshift museum.

Vic Hellberg’s great-grandfather’s monument was one of many destroyed by the derecho. He said the cemetery is an important part of the town.

“My great-grandfather, that’s his monument, and he passed away in 1919,” Hellberg said. “This just isn’t a cemetery, this is part of our community.”

You can join Riverside in their appeal to FEMA by writing a letter about how you value the cemetery. The deadline to do so is May 22nd.

Letters can be dropped off at the office or mailed to:

Riverside Cemetery

611 N. Center St., Marshalltown, Iowa 50158.

Or sent via email to: riverside.cemetery@yahoo.com.

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