BEATRICE – The Beatrice Cemetery Association will receive a $25,000 visitors grant to help complete a project to digitize records of the Evergreen Home Cemetery and a cemetery along East Scott Street. The funding, from lodging tax revenue…will help pay a part of what’s expected to be a $70,000 project.
Mitch Deines is with the Beatrice Cemetery Board…which has been working on the proposal since late last year.

"How does it affect tourism in Gage County? There are countless people every day that come into the cemeteries. We estimated about eight to ten thousand visitors per year, doing family research, checking on their families. This will essentially be on a website that they will develop for us. You'll be able to type in your ancestors name, put in on your phone....and you can walk right to the grave. It's a really great cemetery software system that's used all over the world."

The county board voted 5-1 to approve the grant, which was recommended by the Gage County Visitors Committee, after reviewing the funding request. The project would involve purchase of software to put cemetery records into digital form. Deines says three vendors providing the software were reviewed. He said the association will match the $25,000 grant but will need to raise another $20,000 to buy the software.

Two board members questioned whether the project should be expanded, involving other cemetery organizations in the county. Deines said he would be willing to meet with other associations about future involvement in the project, but county supervisor Dave Swavely said…first things, first.

"Somebody has to start the ball rolling, is the only way I look at it. If we invest the $25,000...and anyone else who wants to join has to take it up on their own. If Blue Springs, or Wymore or Odell want to join, then they have to pick up whatever cost there is to enter their records into the system."

Deines said Beatrice Cemetery Association officials are fearful that old records could be lost in a disaster, resulting in losing a lot of history.  "Boards have a fiduciary responsibility to take care of things and I told our board....if there's a catastrophe....when there's a catastrophe...the public is going to look at us and say, surely you had that backed up, didn't you. No....we don't."

In other action Wednesday, the county board conducted a public hearing on a special use permit application for a commercial ag business…a small milling operation that would convert white sorghum into gluten-free flour…that would be located in Holt Township west of Pickrell.

There was no opposition to the permit application, and formal action will come in two weeks.