JAY - The long-standing practice in southern Delaware County of the commission digging graves for residents being buried across the state line is against the law.

The Maysville Cemetery is situated in Arkansas, just across the road from the Delaware County line, and many southern county residents choose that location as their final resting place.

Commissioner Dave Kendrick, and many others before him, have opened and closed graves at the Maysville Cemetery, according to county records.

After the News-Record questioned the legality of the practice, Nick Lelecas, assistant district attorney, responded with a June 4 letter to Kendrick outlining the authority of the county commission when it comes to opening and closing graves.

Citing Oklahoma Statutes, Title 8, Section 143, Lelecas said the county commission has the authority to open and close graves in certain circumstances, but only within the boundaries of the county which they govern.

The law allows the commission to open and close graves and maintain and improve any publicly owned cemetery.

The statute also allows the commission to appropriate a reasonable fee not to exceed the actual cost of the service rendered.

For many years, the Delaware County Commission has dug graves free of charge in local cemeteries, according to area residents.