KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) — Officials in a south-central Nebraska county don't have complete records of the area's rural cemeteries or who is taking care of them.

Buffalo County Commissioner Joe Brayton raised the issue at a board meeting last week, the Kearney Hub reported . Families and churches care for the 31 known rural cemeteries in the county, he said.

The county is aware of those cemeteries because of tax-exempt requests from the last decade, said Deputy County Attorney Andy Hoffmeister. But several of the caretakers on the list are now deceased, and it's unclear who is now taking care of some of the properties, he said.

One such property is Dove Hill Cemetery, which was previously maintained by Miriam Brandt, who died several years ago. The cemetery is full of tall grass, has one lone gravestone with illegible lettering and doesn't have fences to keep animals out.

The county is only required to take responsibility for the cemeteries when they're neglected or abandoned, Hoffmeister said. State law allows the county to spend up to $1,000 for cemetery upkeep, but it's difficult for the county to know if a cemetery is abandoned or neglected unless neighbors come forward, he said.

Hoffmeister suggested the board to go to the National Association of County Commissioners and local lawmakers to change the language in the statute. He said there is a moral obligation to take care of cemeteries.

"It's marked between the animal and the human being civilized to care for their dead. Animals just leave 'em. We don't," he said.


Information from: Kearney Hub,