By Venita Fritz
Tribune-Courier General Manager
Last week’s discovery of human remains at the site of the Children’s Art Center in Benton continues to halt progress on the parking lot at 12th and Elm streets and late last week a directive from the state put a halt to work inside the center itself.
On Friday city officials were advised by the Kentucky Office of Local Government to cordon off the property to any activity.
On Wednesday workers with the Marshall County Road Department unearthed a grave that Coroner Mitchell Lee has confirmed as an infant who was buried at the site around 1888. Lee said artifacts found with the infant’s body helped to provide information to pinpoint the approximate date of burial.
Benton Mayor Steve Cary said he and a group of city leaders have been in touch with officials in Frankfort to determine the process which must take place before work at the site can continue.
Cary said he has been advised by officials with the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) that the area near where the body was found last week will have to be inspected by an archaeologist to determine if there are more graves on the site. Cary said he has not yet contacted anyone to perform the inspection but plans to reach out to Murray State University’s Department of Geosciences to help assist with the survey of the area.
“I understand Murray State has X-ray equipment they can use to determine what is under the ground and I think they could be a big help to us,” said Cary.
Cary said he has also been advised to increase security in the area of the Children’s Art Center until city leaders determine the best option for handling the one confirmed grave and any others which may be on the property. He said officers with the Benton Police Department have stepped up their patrol of the area.
“We have talked about leaving the area intact and putting up a marker,” Cary said. “Another option would be to move the graves to the Thompson Cemetery where other family members are located.”
Cary said he would prefer leaving the graves located on the property, with some sort of marker to honor those buried at the site, but he said he was waiting on the state and ancestors of those buried there to make that determination.