Cemetery Board Delays Action on Burial Rates Issue Date: September 21, 2016
The Riverside Cemetery Association Board of Trustees at a meeting on Monday, Sept. 19 took no action on a potentially controversial item of Unfinished Business regarding burial fees, namely changing the longstanding practice of charging a higher fee for grave opening and closing for non City of Peshtigo residents than for city residents.
At present, the Cemetery charges city residents $650 for a grave opening and closing. The rate for non residents is set at $750, one hundred dollars more.
The discussion item was presented at the July meeting. At that time the idea of charging one flat fee for all openings and closings was presented, specifically because it was possible a person who lived for a number of years in the city but was forced to move out of town for assisted living/nursing home care would then be charged the non-resident rate. At the conclusion of the July meeting, the Trustees were asked to think about the matter for Monday's meeting.
Board President Stan Nogalski opened the discussion by suggesting the Association might consider charging the resident fee to anyone who had ever lived in the city, but had moved away for whatever reason.
Joel Guay, the longest serving trustee on the Board recalled that at one point in time in the cemetery's history, the Board may have had what he called a "one year rule." In other words, if a person lived in the city, but then had to move outside the city for less than a year for nursing care before they died, they would be charge the resident rate. If that care extended for more than one year before they died, then the non-resident rate would apply
Trustee Lois Walters agreed that even though the cemetery is a business, there may be circumstances for which there could be exceptions.
Board Vice President David Zahn reminded the board that whatever is decided, the Board needs to be very careful not to alienate the city which yearly supplements the cemetery's operating budget with more than $40,000 of taxpayer money paid by the residents of the city. He went on to say that if the Board tried to equalize the resident versus non-resident rates across the board, then the cemetery should be out there asking for other municipalities to contribute to the budget as well.
Nogalski suggested that Guay and Board Secretary Sally Witak research what previous board may have done with decisions regarding those under out of town nursing care when they passed away, and report back at the Nov. 14 Board of Trustee meeting. A motion passed to take no action on the item until the November meeting.
In other matters, Nogalski in his president's report said he met with the city and scheduled the 2017 meetings. They will be held at 5:30 PM on Jan. 16 with annual meeting preceding the regular meeting, March 13, May 15, July 17, Sept. 11, and Nov. 23.
Nogalski also expressed his gratitude to an anonymous donor who once again paid the Post Office Box fee for the Association for another year.
Vice President Zahn in his report presented the reformatted price list that he was asked to prepare. The list more accurately presents the total costs associated with Disinterment and Transfer. The prior price list, as pointed out at the May meeting of the Board, was unclear on the total costs. Zahn gave some updated language on the document for the sake of uniformity, primarily the term "winter burial" will be changed to indicate a surcharge fee "if the ground is frozen."
Treasurer Nancy Dechert reported the up-to-date financial report shows that the income thus far in the year is about $10,000 lower than was expected. The cemetery, she noted though, was not in the hole but added there will have to be some serious thought given to certain items as the Finance Committee begins the 2017 budget preparation process.
Dechert suggested it might be a good idea to ask the energy company to come out to the cemetery to see if they can see some ways to increase energy efficiency in the buildings to lower costs. Sexton Guay concurred with the thought.
Nogalski reported the Forestry Committee continues to work with those involved the forestry business to see if there is potential in doing a timber sale in the wooded, non-grave area of the cemetery. If this comes to fruition, it would only be done during the winter when the ground was frozen. He added that he should know more by the next meeting, including a possible fee estimate and possible profit potential for the cemetery.
Walters reported she continues to work on ideas for signage and mapping for the cemetery, specifically to identify blocks, lots and individual gravesites. She added the cemetery currently has over 5,000 occupied burial sites.
No action was taken on the question of liability insurance coverage of cemetery volunteers. The procedure of gathering what other cemeteries are doing is a long process, Nogalski reported. He added that he has pulled together many documents which an attorney associate of his is reviewing. He said he was still waiting to hear on the progress. The Trustees reiterated that liability coverage for volunteers was something that the Associated needed to pursue.
In his sexton report and also at other times during the meeting, Guay reported on the work that was being done to address some concerns expressed by Trustees early in the year. Specifically he noted work on vine removal along some of the fence lines, donated trees that have been planted, removal of shrubs and brush, and gravestone cleaning. He added that at future meetings he will add more specifics on the work that he and the assistant sextonm John Garon, accomplish, including specifics on burials and grave sales.
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