Questions, answers regarding proposed cemetery rule changes

Apr 9, 2018

Editor's note: The following is a letter outlining some of the questions surrounding a proposed change in rules for how Wareham cemeteries are operated. The changes will be voted on at Town Meeting on April 23 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered voters may participate.

To the Editor:

The concept of municipal cemeteries (town owned) is centuries old. These cemeteries were established to provide burial locations for the citizens of a city or town. Wareham owns three cemeteries, Agawam, Longneck and Centre. Agawam is the oldest (1794) and at near capacity. Longneck is at capacity. Centre (mid-1700s) holds more than 2,000 burials, and has room for expansion.

Q. If I or my family currently has a “license for burial” in one of the town owned cemeteries will that be affected by the proposed changes?

A. No. If you currently hold a “license for burial” (within a grave or lot) your rights will not be affected.

Q. Why should we adopt these updated regulations?

A. Massachusetts Municipal Laws Chapter 114 covers the rules and regulations of cemeteries, and it is important that the Town of Wareham provide mutual protection for license holders, families, and visitors. Under the law cemeteries are considered sacred and dignified places.

Q. Who is in charge of the cemeteries?

A. The Municipal Maintenance Department has the day-to-day responsibility for the management of the cemeteries. It is advised by the Cemetery Commissioners, a body appointed by the Board of Selectmen.

Q. What is the function of the cemetery commissioners?

A. The function of the commissioners is to oversee the rules and regulations of the cemeteries for the Town of Wareham, under the guidance of MGL Ch. 114. They have the right to create, revise and enforce the rules and regulations.

Q. Are the new rules taking anything away from a current license holder (previously referred to as grave or lot owners)?

A. No. Previously license holders were referred to as “owners.” That phrase is incorrect. The Town of Wareham owns the cemeteries. They are municipal property. A person owns only the “right to burial.” That right is not transferable to anyone other than an immediate family member.

Q. Can I sell my grave lots?

A. No. The “right to burial” may only be transferred or assigned to an heir with the written approval of the cemetery commissioners

Q. What is perpetual care?

A. An arrangement made by the cemetery whereby restricted funds (principal) are set aside, the income of which is used to help maintain the cemetery, indefinitely.

Q. Why is there no water available in the cemeteries? There always was water.

A. There are several reasons that water is available in limited quantities and times, or not at all, in the cemeteries. The primary reason is the cost of the water itself, which is determined by one of the water districts, not the Town of Wareham. The pipes, spigots, and other delivery items are old and regularly fail due to age or vandalism. Copper and other piping has been stolen, and there has been vandalism to pipes causing loss of several thousand gallons of water. There are no funds available to repair or maintain the water. Many towns have stopped delivery of water to their cemeteries, due to budget constraints. Currently, the town taxpayers subsidize the cemetery operations.

Q. If I was born and raised here, and then retire to another state due to health or other reasons, can I be buried in Wareham?

A. If you already own a right to burial you may be buried in Wareham no matter how long you may have been elsewhere.



Respectfully submitted,

Kathy Bird

Chair, Cemetery Commissioners