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A number of American flags set out at veterans' gravestones have gone missing or been damaged over the past couple weeks.

Bellevue Cemetery Vandal May Be Groundhog

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The culprit may be a groundhog, like this one seen in Clarksburg on Friday.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Cemetery Commission has a suspect in the recent rash of flag vandalism at Bellevue Cemetery: A groundhog.
 
Commissioner Bruce Shepley said on Thursday that he was aware of reported vandalism of veterans flags at the cemetery but was told by the Department of Public Works that it very well could be an unpatriotic woodchuck.
 
"I am hearing that it is vermin and I am hearing that it is a groundhog," he said.
 
Reports surfaced on Facebook of destroyed and missing flags earlier this week that led to the involvement of the DPW and police. Several people said the small flags set out on veterans graves just before Memorial Day were missing or broken. A number were replaced, only to disappear a few days later.
 
Shepley said he had heard of similar incidents happening in other communities. 
 
"These people were irate about the flags and the police thought it was vandalism," he said of the situation he'd read about. "They put someone out there to watch and they were watching this groundhog come up and I am hearing that it is the same thing here."
 
A Huffington Post article from 2012 tells a similar story of when residents of Hudson, N.Y., were up in arms when flags were disappearing from one of their cemeteries. However, after setting up some surveillance gear, they found a groundhog was the thief.
 
The story notes that the wooden poles on which the flags are fastened to are just too tempting for a groundhog.
 
Shepley said the commission will continue to look for answers but if it is a groundhog it would likely become a matter for the animal control officer.
 
"I am going to follow up and get an answer," he said. "We will get to the bottom of it."
 
In other business, the commission voted to cut off Saturday interments at noon unless there are extenuating circumstances.
 
"There will be times when there are two funerals," he said. "But it has an economic impact on the town having a smaller DPW squad ... I think 12 is reasonable."
 
It often is cost prohibitive for the town to pay DPW workers overtime to attend weekend burials.
 
Commissioners Fred Hobart and Jim Taylor first thought they should extend the hours to 1 or 2 to give time to properly space out burials.
 
"They have to give them time. They are going to be neck to neck it will bottleneck," Hobart said. "If there is one at 11 and one at 12 and those people are paying big bucks for the service."
 
Shepley said he thought it was OK to ask funeral homes to be accommodating and said this would put the town in line with surrounding communities.
 
He added that leaving the policy somewhat open would allow the commission some flexibility.
 
"We would word that, so we can’t be taken advantage of and I don’t think we have to put examples in writing," he said. "If there is abuse of it, it will come to us we will hear about it and we will address it but I don’t want to be insensitive to the issue."
 
Shepley said he will notify all of the surrounding funeral homes and churches.
 
The Commission also said next meeting the DPW will present options for cold storage at Bellevue Cemetery.
 
"It is essential but the problem is funding and we will have to address that when it comes up," he said. "They are going to present us with some options and we will go from there."
 
The town is going to restore the garage at Bellevue and knock down the current cold storage shed that is disrepair. Even with a cleaned-up garage, the cemetery will still have storage needs. 

Tags: cemetery commission,   pests,   wild animals,   

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