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10/14/08- Quitman

Town Proposes Permit Fees For Funeral Escorts

The town of Quitman is now proposing a fee and permit requirement for funeral processions and escorts. As KLTV 7's Courtney Lane shows us, while city officials say it's just an idea to better manage things, residents say the fees are the last thing grieving families should have to worry about.

"I think it's outrageous," said Ronnie Wilson. 

Wilson is rallying support in Quitman, already collecting hundreds of signatures against the proposal. His long list held up by a plaque, which he says symbolizes his motto.

"You won't fall for what's wrong if you stand for what's right," said Wilson.  "I'd like for people to go up there and stand behind me."

The proposed ordinance would require a $25 permit fee for funeral processions. And if it is a private escort, other than law enforcement, $200. Quitman's city manager, Michael Hall, says it would generate about $1,500 a year.

"In a million and a half budget, $1,500 is not a lot," said Hall.  "The question is whether or not you want to try to get cost recovery on services you provide."

"Leave bereaved people alone," said Wilson.  "They've got enough problems without having to go to city hall and get a permit and pay all this extra money."

Hall says the ordinance is more about better managing and giving law enforcement timelier notice. But Wilson is deeply concerned it doesn't contain any exemptions for military families.

"If we can't afford a war veteran the dignity of an escort right out here at this city cemetery or to the city limit sign and either one of them not over a mile and a half. You come through town, what we've got 3 flashing lights and a few stop signs? it's not that big a deal," said Wilson. 

"This was done not with a lack of respect," said Hall.  "It was done with the idea of creating a process by which the city could be informed about the need to provide the service and then to have some cost recovery in the service."

Hall says at a meeting Thursday night, the council could make changes or even throw out the ordinance.

Now, we checked with other towns including Bullard, Mineola, and Tyler. Officials there tell KLTV 7 they do not charge a fee for funeral processions. The city of Quitman's meeting is slated for 7 p.m. this Thursday night.

Courtney Lane, Reporting

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