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Used needles, litter at Sunset Memorial cemetery in Pearl City has state officials looking for clean-up solutions

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Sunset Memorial Park

PEARL CITY, Hawaii (KITV4) -- For years, Sunset Memorial Park in Pearl City has fallen victim to vandalism, squatters, and several fires.

Rep. Gregg Takayama, who covers Central O'ahu, said conditions at the cemetery worsened in recent years after its owners died.

"The other things we found are used needles on some of the headstones in parts of the cemetery," Takayama said. "Clearly to us, it's a health and safety hazard."

Typically shrouded in overgrown grass, the brush has gotten so bad that the state recently created an online map to help people locate loved ones buried there.

Takayama is calling on the state to install fencing to keep squatters out and designate crews to maintain the property on a monthly basis.

"Frankly, if you were to look at the cemetery today, it's about as good as it has looked for the past several years and that's because volunteers have been doing a real diligent job," Takayama said.

Inocentes Montecillo, 74, whose relatives are buried at the graveyard, has been cutting the grass there twice a week for six years.

"If we don't do it, who gonna do it? That's why we come out," Montecillo said. 

State leaders recently toured the cemetery with representatives from the area neighborhood board to see how grave the vandalism is.

The Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the agency that oversees cemeteries, sent KITV-4 the following statement: 

"The DCCA continues to work area legislators, affected community, and interested stakeholders to find a practical and sustainable solution for Sunset Memorial Park.  The Sunset Memorial Park Online Portal is being used to assist the DCCA in gathering information from members of the public who have loved ones buried at Sunset Memorial Park.  It also provides information for us to provide family members with periodic updates regarding the cemetery.  The DCCA plans to seek a court action to wind down the cemetery and transfer the cemetery to a nonprofit organization. Currently, there aren’t any nonprofit organizations that have expressed an interest in taking ownership of the cemetery.

Although the suggestion for the Department of Accounting and General Services to maintain the cemetery is under consideration, a law was passed in 2018 that limits liability for volunteers and nonprofit organizations who maintain or repair cemetery grounds.  We appreciate the community groups who have unselfishly contributed to clean up the cemetery."

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