Families who bought benches in Ocean City, Maryland, to memorialize lost loved ones thought they would be able to sit on the benches forever and look out onto the Atlantic Ocean.
But the town now says the families will each need to pay a restoration fee of more than $1,100 if they want to keep the benches in place.
Families who bought memorial benches in Ocean City were told by letter that they have three options: pay a $1,161 fee to have their bench restored and kept in place, donate the bench to the town, or remove the bench and keep it.
The Seaton family was dismayed when they recently received the letter. They bought a bench for $1,370 and dedicated it to their daughter, Stacey Seaton. She was murdered in 2005, at age 17.
"I know they're looking at it strictly from a business point of view, running a city, but there's more to it than that. It's an emotional thing," Stacey Seaton's father, Mike Seaton said.
Her family and friends visit the bench every year and say it gives them a sense of peace.
"We don't have a grave site for her, so we talk to Stacey there," Mike Seaton said.
Before Stacey Seaton was killed, she said she wanted a memorial bench, her mother recalled.
"I said, 'Sweetie, these are memorial benches for when people die.' And she goes, 'I want you to buy me one of those.' I said, 'Eighty years down the road, when you die, your family will buy you one.' Five days later, she was murdered," Gale Seaton said.
Right away, the Seatons looked into getting a bench to honor their daughter's wishes.
"I thought that might be a little steep, but then I thought, this is forever," Gale Seaton said.
The benches need to be repaired or replaced because they did not hold up as well as expected, Ocean City spokeswoman Jessica Waters said.
“This is a tough decision. We understand people are upset," she said.
If the town cannot reach the owner of a bench, it will be removed and stored, Waters said.
About 975 people have purchased memorial benches. And they may get asked to pay another fee in the future; the benches are only expected to last 10 years.
The Seatons said they're still figuring out what to do. They're leaning toward bringing Stacey's bench home.