All of Janice Boston’s family members who have died are buried at Boston Hill Cemetery in Oviedo, where she’s lived her whole life.
Boston’s late husband’s grandfather, Prince Butler Boston, donated five acres of his land to Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in 1927 so that the Black community, which was segregated at the time, could have a place to bury their dead. The land was outside of Oviedo’s city limits and it remains that way today as an enclave, meaning that it’s surrounded by city land but is considered unincorporated Seminole County.
Boston goes to the cemetery frequently to visit her family members who were laid to rest there. Sometimes she goes just to have a picnic on the nearby road.
But the unpaved Boston Cemetery Road, the only access point to the cemetery, does not match the cemetery’s serene atmosphere, she said.
“There should be a peaceful resting place for people who have spent their lives in Oviedo, and the road should be peaceful, too,” Boston said.
Oviedo Citizens in Action, a nonprofit that has been petitioning the city for years to get the road paved, asked the Oviedo City Council on Monday night to use $87,000 of the $10.4 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding the city expects to receive in 2022 to do the road work. The city was allocated a total of $21 million and received its first of two equal funding installments in October.
“If I was grading the roads that I’ve traveled within the city limits of Oviedo, that would have to be the worst road there is,” OCIA Treasurer Danny McKinney said. “When the resolution comes up for the allocation of funds, I ask that we not neglect that road anymore.”
Boston said that about a decade ago, the city started putting down asphalt millings on the road to make it more drivable. Millings are ground up, recycled asphalt. She said that every so often, when potholes reform, the city will put down more milings to fill them in.
“It would be nice when I go to visit the cemetery to do without the potholes,” she said, adding that she’s often the one flagging the city when the potholes reform. “It should be accessible to everyone who wants to go and visit.”
Ophelia Moore said the road’s poor conditions cause stress and anxiety to the many people in the community who have family members buried there.
“My mom, dad, sister and my sister’s three children are all there,” Moore said. “It’s a nice area, it’s just difficult getting there. The road was just awful (before the milling was laid).”
The Council was expected to discuss the federal government’s American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funding at Monday’s meeting, but voted to continue the discussion at its March 7 meeting because of an error in the way staff prepared the information concerning the funding, City Manager Bryan Cobb said. But Council members still discussed how some ARPA funding could be shifted to the Boston Cemetery Road paving.
Mayor Megan Sladek suggested pulling some money from the $140,000 budget item reserved for air duct cleaning.
“If nobody would notice if the duct cleaning wasn’t done and a lot of people would notice if the road wasn’t paved, it seems to me it would make more sense, if we have the flexibility to use the funds, I know staff is researching that, it seems that that would be the sensible redirection of the funding,” she said.
Cobb said that since the purpose of duct cleaning would be to minimize air-born diseases flowing through city buildings, he would suggest keeping that item funded and taking money from the $1.4 million contingency fund.
Cemetery land annexation discussed
Also discussed during the meeting was the possible annexation of the Boston Hill Cemetery property, which is still owned by Antioch Missionary Baptist Church but is considered unincorporated Seminole County. The cemetery’s access road is within Oviedo’s city limits.
City staff said that typically the property owner initiates an annexation. Antioch Church Administrator Stanley Stone said the paperwork to annex the property has been completed and he expects the annexation to come before the Council for consideration soon.
Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert said that she thinks annexing the property is important, given the history there.
“The whole premise of why that cemetery was built was because we didn’t allow them to be buried in our city,” she said. “So I think it would be great to right that wrong and bring them in. I don’t think we need to wait for annexation before paving the road.”
Deputy Mayor Bob Pollack said he thinks everything should be done at the same time – the annexation and the paving of the road – so that they’re “paving a road that goes to a city property.”
The road also leads to the city’s water plant, so city vehicles use the road for access.
Boston said the city has told her in the past that it didn’t have the funding to pave the road.
“We took what they could do before, but if they can do better, we’d like better,” she said.