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Board considers changes to cemetery ordinance

BRATTLEBORO—The Cemetery Committee and Selectboard held the first reading of proposed changes to the town’s cemetery ordinance.

Cemetery Committee Chair Marshall Wheelock provided an overview of the changes on June 7 as part of the “first reading” required by the town when changing ordinances.

Selectboard Vice-Chair Kate O’Connor said she expected the ordinance’s “second reading” and public hearing to happen at the board’s June 21 meeting.

According to the town’s website, of the 11 cemeteries in Brattleboro, the town manages five. Only Morningside still has lots available for purchase.

Changes to the ordinance focused mostly on the trend toward cremations and away from casket burials, Wheelock continued. The committee also suggested changes to better organize what direction headstones faced and the marking of the corners of plots, he said.

Another change, he said, includes specifying no glass for safety reasons on solar lights or eternal flames placed on plots.

The committee designated a new area in Morningside Cemetery near the mausoleum for burial of urns from cremations, Wheelock said.

A section called Maplewood in the Morningside cemetery was put aside by the committee for the burial of indigent community members, he said. This area will accept only cremated remains and the fee will be waived for people without means to pay for a plot in Maplewood, he added.

Wheelock said the committee added a few new fees, like a $100 plot-opening fee for existing lots and a $250 fee for the new cremation-only section of Morningside.

The committee also requested the board approve reducing the number of committee members from “no more than 12, no less than five” — as required in the existing ordinance — to five, said Wheelock.

According to Wheelock, the committee had extensive work to complete to comply with state statutes when it formed almost 10 years ago. That work is done, he said.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to find bodies to fill the slots,” he added.

After a few chuckles from the Selectboard, Wheelock clarified he meant it has become harder to find living people to serve on the committee.

Board member John Allen asked if it would help to reduce the committee’s number further from five to three?

Wheelock said a five-member committee would work.

“If you can get five bodies, you’ve got five minds working on things rather than three ... I shouldn’t have said bodies should I?” Wheelock said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #362 (Wednesday, June 22, 2016). This story appeared on page D1.

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