Hearing on March 7 for proposed Wareham cemetery rule changes

By Matthew Bernat | Feb 25, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat A hearing is set for March 7 on potential changes to how the town operates its three cemeteries, including Centre Cemetery, pictured.

Residents will be asked to weigh in on proposed changes to how Wareham’s three municipal cemeteries are run at a hearing set for March 7. Drafted by members of Wareham’s Cemetery Commission, the changes will be back before voters at the April 28 Town Meeting. There, they will be asked to adopt the new regulations.

Commissioners originally wanted the changes accepted at October’s Town Meeting. However, voters urged commissioners to review the rules after airing concerns on maintenance issues, burial regulations and the town administrator’s role in operations.

Kathy Bird, the commission’s chair, said her board addressed those concerns.

“This subject is very sensitive to a lot of people. We understand that,” she said.

The changes are needed to bring local cemetery rules, which are out of date by decades, in line with state regulations, she said. In Wareham, there are four cemeteries, three – Agawam, Centre and Long Neck Cemeteries – are operated by the town. The fourth is run by St. Patrick’s Church.

Sticking points for voters included a change that granted the town administrator more authority over cemetery operations. Bird said that language has been removed leaving control in the commissioner’s hands.

A residency requirement was added. Currently, anyone who purchases a plot in a town cemetery may be buried there. Bird said the commission added language that says those who wish to be buried in town must be residents for at least six months prior to burial, which is a recommendation from the state. She noted that commissioners will take into consideration cases of people who were longtime residents, but moved away later in life.

Bird said that requirement was added in part because town cemeteries are running out of space. Long Neck Cemetery is full and there are roughly 70 plots left in Centre Cemetery and also 70 left in Agawam Cemetery, said Bird. Additional land is available in Agawam Cemetery. However, it must be developed before more grave sites can be added.

The rules were drafted with help from Thomas Daly of CHS Consulting Group. Bird said Daly has 40 years of experience in cemetery management.

Bird said she hopes voters will attend the hearing, learn more, and then adopt the rules at Town Meeting.

“We just want a nice, quiet place where people can reflect,” said Bird.

The public hearing is set for March 7 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall, 54 Marion Road.

Comments (2)
Posted by: boho | Feb 26, 2018 09:14

Why not do the proper thing. Grandfather those existing plot owners and honor the contract that existed at the time of purchase. If you must, modify the rules for new plot owners. Years ago my father purchased several burial plots with the intent, when the time comes, his family would be buried together as is customary. I have lived here for 50 years. My father, mother, brother, and nephew are buried here and I will be buried here. It is proposed “those who wish to be buried in town must be residents for at least six months prior to burial” and “the commission will take into consideration cases of people who were longtime residents, but moved away later in life”. Consideration is a nice gesture but not a guarantee. However, should I no longer be able or willing to contend with the winters and I migrate back and forth from here to Florida, I cannot guarantee my death will coincide within a six month period of residency here. Nor can anyone else. Do the right thing and grandfather existing burial plot owners to the rules in effect at the time of purchase.

Posted by: Linda | Feb 28, 2018 23:38

What the cemetery commission needs to do is honor all plot contracts.  They can research empty plots to see if family members are still alive and perhaps buy them back.  Your rain barrels don't work when we have no rain, especially when they are placed under a tree.  Two or three years ago we were ordered to have any trees or bushes removed or the town would do it.  NEVER HAPPENED.  We need the grounds to be leveled and grass planted.  Because some idiot left the water running in Agawam, costing a lot of money, which the water dept. wouldn't decrease, they shut off the water. We had just raked the plot down a few inches and laid sod. Yup, we tried but it died.  Then, the next year the water was on two hours in the morning & two in the afternoon. The next year we get the empty rain barrels and find that all the faucets were broken.  So Cemetery Commissioners, this is what you should be working on, not residency requirements. Thank you.

If you wish to comment, please login.