Richard Bills.jpg

Members of the 816 Infantry in World War I, of which Richard Bills was a part.

RENO — A financial audit for the City of Reno showed solid budgeting Monday, with a fund balance $140,000 higher than last year’s and no overages. An auditor told council members the city had budgeted accordingly in 2020, and there were no violations to their prescribed budget.

Pleased with the audit, council members moved on to vote on the replacement of a historic headstone over the grave of World War I veteran Richard Bills. Bills, a Black soldier from Lamar County, is buried in Reno and served in the 816 Infantry, which was incorrectly marked on his original headstone and is now in poor condition.

Kirstin Dodd of Sunflower Cemetery Services presented information to the council she had gotten from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which said, according to their policies, the city had to choose between keeping the old headstone, or replacing it with a new one — they could not keep both.

After some discussion, council members voted to replace the cracked headstone with a new marker that would last longer and correctly lists Bills’ infantry.

“I would stay with the old one, but 100 years from now when we’re gone, (the new headstone) will still be there,” Mayor Bart Jetton said.

After accepting their vote, Dodds said she’d noticed Bills’ name is not engraved on the WWI section of the Red River Valley Veterans’ Memorial and said she’s working to change that.

“I plan to make that a mission, to get him on there,” Dodds said.

The council voted to order an election for May 1 before debating back and forth about a new logo that would be painted on a standpipe, welcoming visitors and residents to the city.

City Secretary Tricia Smith presented the council with a list of events for 2021, all of which they approved, which included opening day for the trail on April 24, the Reno Magical Forest on May 8, the Summer Celebration on June 26 and the Tour de Paris on July 17.

After reviewing bids for drainage ditches from Highway 82 to the walking trail, council members accepted a $18,900 bid from Anchor Contracting.

Julia Furukawa is the assistant managing editor for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-8744 or at julia.furukawa@theparisnews.com.

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