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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  • Urn vault.
    Vertical PVC pipe (sch 40/ maybe 80), capped on bottom end. Metal screw plug on top. (for probe/metal detector)
    Installed with post hole digger on a “farm” tractor. (Ought to be plenty of those around) “Cap” two feet below grade. “Flush laid” marker.
    Up to 8 urns per PVC tube, (couples/ “family” ) depending on water line. Of course, NOBODY would be so stupid to situate a cemetery over a high waterline, RIGHT?
    Personally, I propose the ashes/cannon approach, but that’s just me.

    • Radical Moderate

      That seems like a lot of work CaptD. I have left instructions for my cremated remains to be duct taped to a $500 aerial display shell and shot out over an ‘unnamed NH lake’. All in all a $3,500 cost with the all you can eat Bar-B-Q for friends and family members. Sorry boys BYOB except for that 125 year old bottle of 178 year old Armagnac I have saved for my toast off.
      Way cheaper than any run of the mill burial or internment.
      And way more fun if you ask me.

      • Radical Moderate

        Just to clarify for anyone that’s interested in the history of French Brandy. I have two bottles of Armagnac, one 125 year old bottle and one 178 year old bottle. I picked them up in France in 1999 during my time there as a private contractor when I had the opportunity to visit the Monsegur castle where and the Cathars were unfortunately burned as heretics which left an indelible mark upon my soul.
        I was foolish enough to think they would be a good investment but I never could stand to part with them because of the sentiment attached to them. Strange how that works.
        Oddly enough, given mysentimental attachment to them I can think of no better use for them than to have my friends and family members toast me off with them

    • Bryan W

      What’s the lifetime of that pipe? Will it ever degrade?

      • No idea, but out of the sun,….probably longer than cast iron.
        I mean, the stuff is supposed to put up with whatever household stuff folks can flush down it.
        There ARE certain solvents, but if THOSE are found in the soil/ground water, well, PVC issues won’t even be considered “on the list”.
        And if they DO “degrade away”, (certainly not in one lifetime) well, they’re easily replaced, or failing that, you get ashes (lye?) in the soil, rather than embalmed goo, (including arsenic from ONE period of time).

  • Bryan W

    If you are going to bury them, you do need something to keep the land from collapsing once it degrades into “dust.” I would rather see an columbarium, but that is more expensive for the town. Capt DMO has a good idea.

    My wife wants to be buried, I don’t care about what’s left of me. Save some cost and put me under her feet. She is short and there’s plenty of room. It’s where she wants me anyway.. 🙂 (kidding)

  • Ed Naile

    When I was a selectman our town became the owner of an abandoned and vandalized property. The owner had died and kids were using it as party central.
    When we blocked the doors and secured the place for auction we found several boxes of what we thought were unmarked cremated remains.
    I tried to find relatives – no luck.
    I took the two boxes to our local undertaker and he said each cremated box of ashes had tiny identifying numbered tags mixed inside. That would give the name of the person.
    He also said his business association had a plot where they scattered ashes in cases like this so he took them and dispersed them.
    Seems like we got lucky – business/municipal venture – no charge.

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