The staff at Greenleaf Cemetery has begun the process of replacing the cemetery’s irrigation system, the latest in a line of upgrades designed to reverse the fortunes of the struggling Brownwood icon.   

This week the cemetery maintenance crew removed hundreds of protruding pipes and faucet heads from the grounds. The heads sprang from the cemetery aisles at regular intervals, and were installed decades ago to water the cemetery evenly and efficiently. But Greenleaf board president Steve Harris said it has been years since the system actually worked.   

“The system can’t be utilized because of all the rotten pipes and brittle pipes,” Harris said. “They’re unsightly, they’re unsafe. A lot of them are laid-over. They’re rotten, rusted and they don’t work.   

“We have a practically brand-new water pump … that’s just sitting there, not being used,” he said.   

Harris said the cemetery is exploring the purchase of an above-ground, portable irrigation system to replace the decrepit one. “The problem out here is, in the growing season the majority of the cemetery ends up being weeds and not grass,” he said. “That’s because of a lack of irrigation. If we’re able to irrigate … that means a prettier, more well-kept cemetery, and the guys aren’t just constantly mowing weeds. Because weeds grow faster than grass does.”   

Greenleaf was in the news last week when its former office manager Tisha Pruett was found guilty of stealing more than $23,000 from the cemetery association. That theft compounded the normal problems of a large rural cemetery, forcing Greenleaf to lay off staff and delay the replacement of its irrigation system and numerous other needed upgrades.   

Harris said the cemetery needs new mowers, and even a new office building. But he said Greenleaf can no longer “kick the can down the road.”   

“Our philosophy is finding solutions,” he said.   

Greenleaf will still need help to afford an above-ground irrigation system, and plans to host a variety of fundraisers in 2018 as it did last year. But those wishing to donate directly to Greenleaf can make checks payable to Greenleaf Cemetery at P.O. Box 455, Brownwood, 76804-0455.   

Donations to Greenleaf are currently not tax deductible. “Previous board members didn’t take care of our business with the IRS,” Harris said. Those who wish to make a tax-deductible donation can write a check to Keep Brownwood Beautiful, write “Greenleaf Project” on the memo line and send it to the address listed above.