Sugar Land, FBISD officials in favor of reburying human remains at Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery

A Sugar Land task force charged with discussing the reinterment of the human remains of 95 bodies found on the Fort Bend ISD James Reese Career and Technical Center construction site voted 19-1 last week to present to City Council a formal recommendation to rebury the bodies where they were found, if possible.

The alternate option discussed included reburial at the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery located off Easton Avenue near the FBISD construction site at Chatham Avenue and University Boulevard.

“I think, in my opinion, it’s fantastic that we actually have a cemetery there already, and to me it makes a lot of sense to have this burial site there,” said Himesh Gandhi, at large Position 1 council member.

Andrea Collins, a Missouri City resident who serves on the task force, said during public comment at the City Council meeting Tuesday she agreed with the vast majority of the group that voted to rebury the remains where they were found out of respect.

“I strongly believe that all of our voices should be heard and taken seriously,” Collins said. “At our previous meeting, I felt like a decision had already been made. It was very disconcerting because I spent a lot of time away from my family and my jobs to do research and work on this task force. I really feel like it’s important to respect the vote that was made last week.”

City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an interlocal agreement with FBISD to rebury the remains at the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery. Council Member Amy Mitchell was absent.

“I think we’ve arrived at—even though it’s a compromise—the best outcome,” Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman said. “I believe it to be respectful. … There was no predetermined outcome. This interlocal agreement that we entered into tonight gives Fort Bend ISD the ability, not the requirement, to reinter those bodies at that site.

Council and FBISD officials who attended the meeting agreed that the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery would be the best final resting place for the victims of the convict leasing system.

“We understand that some of the members of the task force prefer to reinter the bodies at the James Reese Center on Fort Bend ISD’s site,” FBISD board President Jason Burdine said on behalf of the board of trustees during the council meeting. “However, as a public school district we are charged with educating children, and the feasibility of becoming a perpetual care organization is beyond our expertise and our means. We believe that the appropriate reburial location is the adjacent Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery as the site has shared a history as it was part of a larger property used as a camp with the individuals.”

Burdine also said the district is committed to preserving the dignity of the bodies found and honoring them with a proper burial.

Per the interlocal agreement, FBISD is charged with seeking approval from the Texas Historical Commission to allow DNA testing; identifying a curation facility to assume custody of genetic material collected; submitting a petition to the court for removal and reburial; covering costs associated with new burial vessels, transportation, interment and security; procuring and placing temporary markers at each grave; and reaching a funding agreement with a nonprofit organization to raise funds for memorial features, Assistant City Manager Doug Brinkley said.

The city is charged with providing individual grave plots, providing ongoing perpetual care of the new gravesites and considering future requests for additional property in the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery for future memorialization and education, Brinkley said.

“It’s been the goal of the City Council to work with Fort Bend ISD, to work with the school board [and] to work with the superintendent to affect what we believe was the best possible outcome to make sure we were respectful of not only the history but the history going forward,” Zimmerman said.

The task force will continue meeting to discuss reinterment going forward. The next meeting will be held Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 2700 N. Town Center Blvd., Sugar Land.

“The work of the task force, I would say, is still just beginning,” Brinkley said.
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


MOST RECENT

The car mechanic shop offers inspections, oil changes, transmission and suspension repair, and body work. (Courtesy Pexels)
Auto Max Automotive under new ownership in Missouri City

The car mechanic shop offers inspections, oil changes, transmission and suspension repair, and body work.

Fort Bend ISD will adopt its budget in May and approve the tax rate in August. (Courtesy Pexels)
Fort Bend ISD board sets maximum tax rate amid funding uncertainties

Fort Bend ISD taxpayers could face up to a $0.03 tax rate increase for the 2021-22 year after the school board unanimously set the maximum tax rate at $1.2702.

The Sugar Land Skeeters will play at Constellation Field through the 2045 season. (Courtesy Sugar Land Skeeters)
Sugar Land City Council finalizes Constellation Field lease agreement with Houston Astros

Under the agreement, the Sugar Land Skeeters will play at Constellation Field through the 2045 season.

(Courtesy Unsplash)
GreenPal launches in Missouri City

GreenPal, an app that connects homeowners with local, vetted lawn care professionals, launched in Missouri City in March.

As part of President Joe Biden’s plan to reopen schools safely nationwide, the department’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option is being expanded beyond the summertime. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
USDA extends free school meals provision through 2021-22 school year

Schools nationwide will be able to serve nutritious meals to all students free of charge regardless of eligibility through June 30, 2022, officials announced.

Hummingbird Montessori School educates children ages 6 weeks to 6 years. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Hummingbird Montessori School hosting tours, seeking students in Sugar Land

The Montessori school, which opened March 15, is located in the Shops in Riverstone.

Caroline Bordelon's son Caleb, 9, lives with autism. Caleb is nonverbal and has eloped from home many times. Upon learning about the Take Me Home program, Caroline immediately registered Caleb and said the program is greatly needed and gives her peace and comfort for her family. (Courtesy Hope For Three)
Fort Bend County program provides emergency assistance to residents with cognitive disabilities

A new program run through the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office is designed to give people with cognitive disabilities special assistance if they are found alone or in times of emergency.

Dunkin' opened in Missouri City at 6231 Hwy. 6 on April 19. (Courtesy Dunkin')
Dunkin' opens Missouri City location April 19

The global chain serves a variety of coffee beverages as well as doughnuts, bagels and breakfast sandwiches.

Vaccinations at any of Kelsey-Seybold Clinic's 26 Greater Houston-area locations are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. by appointment only at no cost to the individual or family. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-based Kelsey-Seybold Clinic expands vaccine eligibility to age 16 and older

Vaccinations at any of Kelsey-Seybold Clinic's 26 Greater Houston-area locations are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. by appointment only at no cost to the individual or family.

Early voting for the May 1 election runs April 19-27. Here's what you need to know before you head to the polls. (Community Impact staff)
What you need to know to vote in the May election in Sugar Land, Missouri City

Early voting for the May 1 election runs April 19-27. Here's what you need to know before you head to the polls.

Right Mentality offers individual, couples and family counseling to assist with depression, anxiety, trauma, anger management and substance use. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Right Mentality Mental Health and Wellness provides therapy at new Sugar Land location

The practice offers individual, couples and family counseling to assist with depression, anxiety, trauma, anger management and substance use.