Town Meeting voters reject cemetery rule changes

Oct 24, 2017

Wareham's cemetery regulations will remain the same for now after Town Meeting voters rejected a Cemetery Commission proposal that would have updated the rules.

Commissioners hired a consultant with 40 years of experience to “codify and update the rules and regulations for cemeteries” said Town Administrator Derek Sullivan.

The changes were drafted to bring the rules in line with state guidelines. 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.

Initially, one change would have shifted authority for running cemeteries from the Cemetery Commissioners to the town administrator. After hearing concerns from residents at public hearings held earlier this fall that provision was removed.

Town Meeting voters aired concerns over other changes, including one that would have required approval before nonresidents could be buried locally.

“We should not have to ask permission to bury a loved one in a cemetery plot that we bought,” said Susan Akins.

Akins expressed frustration at what she said was a lack of care at town cemeteries. Others lamented the loss of water spigots for maintaining flowers. This summer, spigots were replaced with rain barrels in a bid to reduce waste and minimize vandalism.

Board of Selectmen Chair Peter Teitelbaum said the regulations were properly vetted, and he urged for approval.

“I don’t think people who have worked so hard on this appreciate the implication that something is being snuck by,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Cemetery Commissioner Deborah Rose said she joined the commission a few years ago after seeing a lack of activity. The rule update was the result of hard work, she said.

“We have worked our fingers to the bone,” said Rose. “We have a great consultant helping us and we finally came up with something that is pleasing to all.”

Town Meeting voted 74 - 45 to send the regulations to further study.