Hearing on March 7 for proposed Wareham cemetery rule changes

Feb 25, 2018

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The changes are needed to bring local cemetery rules, which are out of date by decades, in line with state regulations, she said.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.