DONALDSONVILLE — Two local women chided City Councilmen on Tuesday for the way they handled the sale of property that included 13 grave sites.
Both Francesca Oatis and Jevella Williamson said they have relatives buried on the land and, since the sale, families no longer have unabated access to visit the graves.
The issue stems from a February sale of the 198-foot-by-62-foot property along St. Patrick Street by the city to local resident Gary Crochet. Part of that property, which abuts a Protestant cemetery, includes the 13 graves.
Since buying the land, Crochet has erected a fence to separate his property from the cemetery, which sparked a petition from residents.
Crochet was not present at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.
City Attorney Chuck Long said Crochet is not allowing people to visit the graves without his permission.
Oatis, whose son is buried among the 13 graves, said the move opened old wounds concerning his death in 2007.
“The council owes these 13 families an explanation,” she said. “You knew there were graves on that land. Why did you not subdivide it and exclude the graves? Why do I have to knock on someone’s door to visit my son?”
“You have done us an injustice,” an emotional Oatis told the council. “You sold my child.”
Williamson said she feels the council acted with “total disregard and disrespect” in selling the grave sites, and asked that they be put back into the cemetery.
“It’s like you didn’t care,” she said. “This is one of the worst decisions you’ve made.”
The city is currently in litigation in 23rd Judicial District Court with Crochet, seeking unrestricted passage to the grave sites, Councilman Raymond Aucoin said.
Members of the council voiced their sympathies for the families of those involved.
“We do have compassion,” Councilman Charles Brown Sr. said. “We had no idea it would go this way.”
“There were things said that the buyer didn’t stick to,” Councilman Reginald Francis Sr. said. “I can’t say too much because it’s in litigation, but you will have access to your families’ graves.”