Tales from the BudComm: we don’t need no stinkin’ private sector

by Skip

Urn and vaultBudComm 2017 Cemeteries - UrnsCemeteries.  Usually a very small part of any town or city’s budget but it is there.  It seems that every town has at least one within its boundaries; mine, due to historical reasons, has a bunch of them.  Many of them were old family plots started well over a hundred years ago and over time, the town took “ownership” of the land and care of the plots (and yes, if they were and descendants are now among us, I feel they should take care of those plots instead of socializing the costs across the rest of us but this is a beef from my last stint on the BudComm) as well as the “central” one across from our Middle/High Schools).  It’s not much of a budget – a couple of guys to properly take care of the grass and detritus that seemingly collects on the grounds.

And urn vaults….what, URNS VAULTS? Is this a Proper Role of Government? And is this a prime (if tiny) example of mission creep?

When the subcommittee returned to report to the full BudComm brought this up, I just shook my head – WHY are we doing this?  Oh, members said, the reasoning that the Cemetery Trustees told us is that they just to help the bereaved save some money over what the local funeral homes charge at for these vaults (e.g., they charge too much).  Besides, we’re doing this at cost and the inventory only consists of one or two at a time.  No big deal, we were told (even as the person giving the report started to realize what he was saying – shakily as he looked at the rest of us).

Eyeballs rolled amongst the more conservative members – including mine.  Seriously – having my hamlet decide to compete with the private sector?  Is that a proper role of Government?  Remember, when someone is cremated and the ashes put into an urn, NH law requires that the urn be put into a vault just like a casket (with a body chockful of embalming chemicals) must be interred in when lowered into the ground.

Now, I have no problem at all in having the cemetery workers carefully dig the hole into which the vault and urn will be put into – as caretakers of the grounds, I think this is a normal part of the job (although I did find out that they don’t dig regular graves due to “liability” (e.g., interrment participants falling into the grave if the ground gives way) so they outsource that digging to the funeral homes).

Sidenote: yet, the town as all of the proper heavy equipment in the DPW department to do it and do it right? Not saying we should but just because the cemetery crew doesn’t have an excavator…

I think this is wrong – while the town “provides” the cemetery ground, should it compete by offering urns with those vaults?  Why not flowers as well?  And caskets aren’t cheap,  are they?  We may not have limo-casket haulers, but we’ve got some pretty hefty trucks – I bet we could wrap them (for a small fee) and provide a reasonable conveyance for the deceased (and most of their family members as well – save them some car fees to boot!).

I kid – somewhat.  The Cemetery Trustees are tasked with the care of the cemeteries and not providing lower cost services on items for sale because FEELINGS!  I am a proponent of the slippery slope meme mostly because in my decades on this mud ball, I have seen bureaucracies in both public and private sectors, once they have “mastered” their primary missions, always seek to extend that mission and do so generally on their own say-so.

This post went way longer than I thought for such a minor item so I’ll put this to rest with this:

The proper thing to do is to nip this kind of action in the bud – and bury it.

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