LIVINGSTON – A proposal drafted by the Livingston Parish Ordinance Committee could impose tighter guidelines on burial plots.

The proposal, which also drew approval of the Livingston Parish Council in its meeting Thursday, came as the parish’s Office of Homeland Security works with officials from the Department of Health and Hospitals on the re-internment of caskets displaced during the Great Flood of 2016.

“We’re still dealing with it seven months after the flood, trying to relocate human remains and caskets back to their original burial place,” Mack said. “We wanted to try to improve that process in case it ever happens again in the future.”

The proposal will go up for discussion in a public hearing March 23 before the Parish Council makes a final vote on the measure the same evening.

The legislation would require burial of the top uppermost part of the burial vote or other encasement at least 24 inches below the ground surface.

The ordinance would require funeral establishments in the parish to affix in a  “permanent-type” material information on all caskets used by the establishments in burial:

--The name of the deceased, contained within the casket.

--The date of death of the deceased.

--The name of the funeral establishment.

--The cemetery name and location.

--The burial plot location identification.

Violation of the ordinance would result in a fine of $500 per case or the maximum amount allowed by law.

Arbie Goings, a contractor with the DHH-activated Disaster Mortuary Operation Response Team, recommended a revision in which the ordinance would also apply to funeral homes outside Livingston Parish.

“There needs to be more teeth in this ordinance, or otherwise it will be a waste of time,” said Goings, who has overseen 800 disinternments statewide since August. “We need to be very specific, otherwise we will be right back where we are now.”

The legislation would follow suit with ordinances proposed by the parish councils in St. Helena and Washington parishes, he said.

The State Attorney General’s Office will likely seek a similar legislation on the state level, but he suggested the parish move forward with the ordinance.

“You need to be proactive,” Goings said. “The problems here have gone on long enough.”

More than 200 burial sites remain uninterred. Goings could not yet give an estimate on the total cost of the process.

“We have no idea how much this will cost yet,” he said.

FEMA handles graves in privately owned cemeteries – included those on church property – as individual claims, according to Arbie Goings, who worked 30 years as a funeral director and now serves in an advisory capacity as a cemetery recovery consultant for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

“It’s a logistical nightmare,” he said.

The FEMA assistance cap of $33,000 further complicates matters.

In a parish in which more than 80 percent of the homes flooded, it is likely that almost the same number of homeowners have individual assistance claims on file, Goings said.

 “The way the parish flooded has exacerbated the situation,” Goings said. “Had there not been so many homes flooding, the identification process would’ve been much easier.”

The graves fall under the same mode of individual assistance as help for home repairs.

The FEMA assistance cap of $33,000 further complicates matters.

In a parish in which more than 80 percent of the homes flooded, it is likely that almost the same number of homeowners have individual assistance claims on file, Goings said.

The FEMA assistance cap of $33,000 further complicates matters, he said.

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