Riverside Cemetery Board To Propose Changes In By-Laws
Work on proposed revisions to the by-laws that govern operations of Peshtigo's Riverside Cemetery Association has been underway for many months, but is now nearly complete.
On Monday, March 13, the Association's Board of Trustees unanimously approved the changes recommended by the by-laws committee with one minor exception that involves more research into legalities as to who can sign legal documents.
Major changes that were tentatively approved include formally combining the positions of treasurer and perpetual care treasurer, eliminating provisions for voting by proxy at Association meetings, and prohibiting cemetery employees from serving on the Board of Trustees.
The current by-laws have been in effect since Riverside Cemetery Association was incorporated on April 28, 1926. A final version is to go to the trustees in May, after which they will be posted on the cemetery's web site, and there will most likely be a special Association meeting for members to vote on whether or not they want to put them into effect.
"We're doing okay so far," Treasurer Nancy Holzberger commented at the start of her bi-monthly report. She said the Association has $36,692 in its checking account to use for operating expenses, $206,101 in the Perpetual Care fund, and $3,661 in the donation account.
Since January the Association received $6,875 in burial fees, the city subsidy of $7,667, $120 for Perpetual Care, $680 for sale of lots to a non-resident, and $700.87 in interest income. Expenses so far this year totaled $9,984, leaving net income of $6,058.38 for January and February.
Former Sexton/Head Groundskeeper Joel Guay passed away in October of 2016, and John Garon was hired to fill that position.
Garon reported all six burials so far this year were all on regular time, none on holidays or weekends.
The backhoe had some problems and he brought it to the city garage for repairs. There were a lot of pre-paid cremations.
At the start of the meeting, Board President Stan Nogalski noted that some time ago there were questions as to what they could and could not do with Perpetual Care funds. He had done some research and found that by Wisconsin law, 15 percent of the price of every grave sold must be deposited in a Perpetual Care account. Principal in that account cannot be touched, but income (interest) it earns can be used to maintain the lots. If the income exceeds the expense of maintaining the lots, the money can be used for other care and upkeep at the cemetery. The reason is to be sure money is available to continue taking care of the graves should the cemetery itself ever cease to exist.
Nogalski said they can legally invest Perpetual Care funds in the stock market, but if there is a loss the board would not have carried out its fiduciary responsibilities, so that money should only be placed in fully insured accounts.
Vice President David Zahn reported that due to his position as the City of Peshtigo's Parks and Recreation Director he had received several phone calls about trees and branches down in the cemetery as a result of the recent wind storm, and a planter was tipped over.
Trustee Kathy Crabtree said she had driven through the cemetery after the storm and indeed there were branches down, but no big ones and no driveways were obstructed.
Nogalski commented someone had removed all the branches from a tree that had come down, and the next day the tree was gone also.
Crabtree had condensed the Association's "Waiver of Liability for Volunteers" form onto a single sheet of paper, and was complimented for her work.
Nogalski suggested the board should have some sort of approval process for volunteer projects to be carried out in the cemetery.
After a brief discussion it was decided that when someone proposes a volunteer project they should be referred to Trustee Patti Stibbe, who chairs the Buildings and Grounds Committee, and she, in consultation with Garon, is to make the decision on whether or not they should go ahead with it.
Garon had suggested they set firm dates for the start and end of winter burial charges, rather than go through the present confusion over deciding when there is enough frost in the ground to warrant the additional charge. Nogalski felt that was a good idea, and the rest of the board agreed. Winter burial dates will be from Dec. 1 through March 31 each year, regardless of frost conditions. Garon commented during the winter months sod replacement also does not work, even if the ground is not frozen. The winter burial charges apply to both cremations and regular burials.
It also was decided that when there are two burials for one opening, for example one grave opening and one for a cremation in the same hole there will be a single charge for a grave opening, plus $200 for the added paper work. The maximum per grave site is two burials, which can be either one casket and one cremation, or two cremations.
Trustees went into closed executive session and decided who will be offered the assistant groundskeeper post formerly held by Garon. They agreed on two possible candidates, but will not make a name public until the person accepts.
Then came a long discussion on the by-law changes. The committee working on that project was headed by Zahn, with Nogalski and Secretary/Trustee Sally Witak as members.
Zahn distributed copies of the original by-laws, along with the new ones with changes highlighted. He said some of their work just involved modernizing the language, while others were more substantial.
To fit with what has been happening, the positions of treasurer and perpetual care treasurer were combined into one position, which is to be a trustee elected by vote of fellow board members. This position and that of secretary are the only paid board member positions, although by-laws, new version and old, allow trustees to create other paid officer positions if needed. The rule states they "may" receive a salary, but not that they must. Witak does not accept a salary.
Another change involves how and when to fill a vacancy on the Board of Trustees. By-laws, new and old, say there must be no less than five nor more than nine trustees. The remaining members have the power to fill by appointment for the remainder of the unexpired term, but Nogalski preferred not to fill vacancies until the next annual meeting of the Association, when trustees are normally elected. He noted the previous board had solicited letters of interest and appointed a person to fill the vacancy, "but personally, as long as we have at least five members to function, it seems more democratic to wait until the next annual meeting."
Holzberger felt that could be the decision, but preferred to leave the option open. Decision was to leave the rule as it was proposed by the committee, which gives remaining board members the power, but not the obligation, to fill vacancies when they occur.
Decision to not allow paid employees to serve on the Board of Trustees was supported by the full board. Elected officers of the board are not considered employees, they are elected officials.
Proxy voting by members at Association meetings will no longer be allowed. All votes must be by ballot. Anyone who owns a lot in the cemetery or has a family member buried there is allowed to vote, but turnout is generally small. If proxies were allowed, Nogalski felt it would be easy for someone to solicit proxies from family members in other states and skew election results without the voters being present to hear the discussions. Everyone agreed in this day and age, for anyone who cares enough, getting to the meetings should not be that much of a problem.
The policy on seating new trustees is being clarified to state they will be seated at the trustee meeting immediately following the Annual meeting at which they were elected.
Standing committees and Ad Hoc committees are to be appointed by the Executive Board, which consists of the president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
Depositories of cemetery funds may now officially be any "financial institution" in the City of Peshtigo, whereas formally the rules stated "bank".
The rules also state the lots shall be sold "for no other purpose than for the burial of human bodies, subject to the rules and regulations adopted by the Association."
An old requirement for an annual cemetery inspection by a committee appointed by the mayor is being eliminated
An entirely new section that sets guidelines for investment of cemetery funds, and states, "The goal of the Association is to seek as much income as possible consistent with preservation of capital while considering the potential for some capital appreciation."
The one issue on which agreement was not reached involved who must legally sign deeds for lot purchases and perpetual care contracts. Currently the rules state the president and clerk must sign. By law, signatures on the deed must be witnessed at the time of signing by a Notary Public. Trustee Amber Linwood is a notary public and has been doing the notarizing. However, Holzberger said there often is a problem getting the president, clerk and Linwood together at one time to do the official signing, and waiting for the next board meeting would mean the purchaser might not get a deed for two months. After some discussion everyone agreed to check further into legalities and make a decision at the May board meeting.
The signature issue will be studied during the next two months, and the by-laws will be back for formal approval by the Board of Trustees at its next meeting, which will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 15 at the Henry Drees Community Center.
If all the changes are approved at that time, a special Association meeting might be called to put the new by-laws into effect. Two thirds vote of members present is required, except that the rule allowing voting by proxy remains in effect until after the new by-laws are adopted.
To a question from Trustee Lois Walters on how questions regarding the cemetery are handled, Garon said even during his off time months, he calls the cemetery phone daily to retrieve messages, and responds to questions as he receives them.
Trustees thanked committee members for all their hard work on revising the by-laws
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