State changes mind on how to handle Darrington graves in highway right-of-way

Correction: The state Department of Transportation did not tell Darrington it would be required to relocate two 90-year-old graves that are in the right-of-way for Highway 530. The department had asked Darrington to set up a $5,000 administrative fund to be drawn on as the town and state negotiated a resolution. On Wednesday, however, transportation officials decided to sell the land to the town for $1,000 and charge a $500 administrative fee. Darrington Mayor Joyce Jones on Thursday said she misunderstood the situation the town faced. A story and headline that appeared on Page 1 Thursday incorrectly described the town’s dilemma.

DARRINGTON — The thought of being ordered to dig up and move two 90-year-old graves in the town cemetery didn’t sit well with Mayor Joyce Jones.

Neither did the idea that her struggling little town would have to fork over $5,000 to the state Department of Transportation for work the state did to determine that a narrow slice of the cemetery is in the right-of-way of state Highway 530.

Jones was angry.

“We have no money, and I don’t want our cemetery disturbed,” she said.

Last summer volunteers installed a new sign at the cemetery, which sits along the highway at the entrance to Darrington. During that process, the state warned the town that the sign was close to the right-of-way.

Earlier this month an official with the state Department of Transportation told town officials that an informal land survey had been completed and two graves would have to be moved out of the right-of-way.

It was the same reaction the state would’ve had to any property owner encroaching onto the road’s right-of-way, said transportation department spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke.

“We are responsible for that right-of-way,” Pembroke said.

Town administrator Lyla Boyd began contacting Darrington’s lawyer, its insurance company and state officials to inquire about the possibility of swapping state some town-owned property across the highway for the land where the graves are.

The cemetery doesn’t generate any income, and the town has no money to play with, Boyd said.

On Wednesday, when questioned about the issue, state transportation officials backed down.

“It was decided that moving graves is not a good solution,” Pembroke said.

In addition, Transportation Department property officials announced that the state doesn’t need the trade offered by the town.

Darrington now has only to pay the state $1,000 to buy the 8-by-500-foot piece of property at the cemetery and a $500 administrative fee to transfer ownership.

“That’s much more reasonable,” Boyd said. “In principle, we really shouldn’t have to do even that, but … yippee. We’re relieved.”

Jones said she’s just happy no graves will be disturbed.

“Goodness!” she said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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