MAPLETON – A funeral director urged Mapleton council to defer a decision on what he called unreasonable proposed increases on fees at municipally-owned cemetery lots for both traditional and cremation.
At a previous meeting, council was informed that they would need to raise fees to address shortfalls in the maintenance fund.
For graves, staff suggested raising the fee from $825 to $2,250, and for cremation lots raising from $375 to $1,500.
Council was expected to make a decision on this at a Dec. 8 meeting, but a motion passed to delay this until the new year.
Mapleton owns two cemeteries, Drayton Cemetery and Hollen Cemetery in Moorefield.
At Tuesday afternoon’s council meeting Kenneth Thompson, a funeral director for Heritage Funeral Homes, urged council to defer passing the proposed increases.
“We’re not opposed to increases happening, that is how the world works, however these proposed increases are most certainly unreasonable,” Thompson said to council.
He said that a sharp increase to lot prices will drive people to buy in neighbouring municipalities as they range from $850 to $1250.
“If this increase goes through, people will shop around for plots,” Thompson said. “Would you personally purchase a plot at $2250 or would you drive three or five miles up the road for a plot at $1000 or $1200?”
He said the price for a grave lot has only gone up $50 in the past 10 years. He said if they had steadily increased it at a standard price or cost of living, it would be more in line with where it should be.
“If there is a feeling of a shortfall and there isn’t enough funds is primarily from mismanagement of not having a slight increase every year,” Thompson said.
“You can’t expect to make up a deficit because there was no increase in 10 years with one increase.”
He went on to say other communities don’t seem to have an issue with subsidizing cemeteries, noting that those buried are largely those who paid taxes their whole lives in Mapleton and therefore subsidized other municipal services such as recreation.
He finished by saying they have been advocating for expansion at the Drayton Cemetery for 20 years and the cemetery is in a tough situation.
He explained that one section was formerly a catholic cemetery and another formerly a protestant cemetery.
Thompson said the protestant side is nearly full and although that separation is not technically valid anymore, many older members of the community will still see it this way.
“The land is there for expansion, it’s owned by Mapleton, what are we waiting for?” Thompson asked.
Mayor Gregg Davidson thanked Thompson for his delegation and noted that he had not heard about the ongoing ask for expansion at the cemetery.
Sam Mattina, director of public works, said that their current plan doesn’t require expansion until 2037.
He also said some columbariums, which can hold cremated remains in a more efficient space, are planned including one in 2022.
Councillor Marlene Ottens mentioned that it is budget time and they could consider moving this ahead to next year.
Thompson said the columbarium does suit the needs for some but that there is still a generation living that tends to favour traditional ground burial.
CAO Manny Baron said the township needs to look at bigger issues such as unsatisfactory bylaws and a master plan that doesn’t suit the needs.
He suggested staff needs to regroup and meet with Heritage Funeral Homes and others involved in this business to come with an overall recommendation to council.
The mayor agreed to this and said to Thompson they would listen to him and follow up on it in the future.
Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com