(Shelby County) The Shelby County Cemetery for the indigent is running out of burial space.
The cemetery on Ellis Road in Bartlett could be full in two years.
The county is now looking at 43 acres south of Millington, near Fite Road.
Homeowners are being assured the cemetery won’t have a negative impact on their neighborhood.
Just by looking at the serene landscape, you’d never guess there are 21,200 people buried in the Shelby County Cemetery on Ellis Road.
“We have infants through adults…adults of any age,” said Tom Needham, Shelby County Public Works Director.
There are no headstones to make grounds maintenance easier.
But each grave is marked with a numbered metal ring and can be located with a metal detector.
The cemetery is for poor people in Shelby County.
“Ninety percent of our bodies come from a hospital or our morgue. Another five or ten percent comes through funeral homes,” said Director Needham.
Opened since 1965, the cemetery now has very little burial space left.
“We had 460 plots available in our infant section and we’re burying about 19 infants a month. So the infant section is going to be full in about 24 months,” said Needham.
There are only 300 adult plots left, and those could be gone in 36 months.
Shelby County started planning for a new cemetery four years ago and has signed a $75,000 contract for land at Raleigh-Millington and Duncan Roads.
But the idea of the cemetery so close to a neighborhood has raised some concerns for homeowners like Shirley Nail, who lives on Duncan Road.
“I’m worried about it bringing the neighborhood down. Maybe it would bring it down, having something like that,” said Shirley Nail.
The county will only develop 10 acres at first and maintain a 30-foot buffer zone between the cemetery and any homes or businesses.
Mary Jones lives on Willow Springs Drive and isn’t worried.
Tongue-in-cheek, Jones said she doesn’t think the cemetery will create any problems.
“I like quiet neighbors and I think they’ll be pretty quiet,” said Jones.
The new cemetery proposal will go before the county Land-Use Control Board, which will review the plan and hear from the public.
If it’s approved, the plans still have to go through the County Commission, the Memphis City Council and the Millington Board of Aldermen because the proposed site is within five miles of another municipality.