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Battle over grave relocations resumes Friday at courthouse

By Walter Geiger The battle over the City of Barnesville’s quest to relocate at least 103 graves from historic Wadsworth-Clayton Cemetery moves to Lamar superior court Friday. A hearing on the matter before Judge Tommy Wilson is set for 1 p.m. The city wants to remove the remains from the cemetery on Old Milner Road to Greenwood Cemetery in town to make room for industrial expansion. The old cemetery, which dates back to the early 1800s, is located on city-owned property. The city originally applied to the county commission for a grave relocation permit. The county voted 3-2 on July 13, 2016 to grant it. Two direct Wadsworth descendants, Mike Ross and Cynthia Wadsworth, filed objections, arguing the permit application should have gone through Lamar superior court. At a hearing in Atlanta earlier this year, Fulton County superior court judge John Goger agreed with the plaintiffs and sent the case back to the local court. Such hearings are rare and state statutes don’t provide much guidance on how they should be conducted, according to attorney John Strauss who represents Ross. After input from the attorneys involved, Judge Wilson issued an order governing the procedures for the hearing. City attorney Bobby Melton or his agent will get 10 minutes to explain the permit application which is already on file with the court. Interested parties may then address the court after stating their names and addresses. Those in favor of relocating the graves will have a total of 30 minutes as a group to make their arguments. Afterwards, those opposing the relocations will have a total of 30 minutes to address the court. Judge Wilson suggested, but did not require, that the proponents and opponents each select one spokesperson to present their views. After that period, the city will have an additional five minutes for summation. The judge has also set strict ground rules with regard to maintaining decorum in the courtroom. Speakers must address only the court and refrain from personal attacks on others. Speakers also must not present facts or opinions irrelevant to the case. The court may halt a speaker if, after a warning, such behavior continues. Those who persist may be removed from the courtroom, held in contempt or both.

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