New cemetery rules earn voter approval at Wareham Town Meeting

Apr 24, 2018

Voters unanimously approved updated rules for Wareham’s three municipal cemeteries at Town Meeting on Monday. Cemetery Commissioners spent the past year working on the rules, which are needed to bring the town in compliance with state guidelines. The current regulations have remained unchanged since 1986.

Cemetery 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. 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.

In June 2017, the commissioners hired Tom Daly, owner of CHS Consulting Group, to review the town’s current practices. Commissioners noted Daly has decades of experience overseeing cemetery operations and has consulted with many cities and towns on cemetery rules.

Sticking points for voters at the fall Town Meeting included a change that granted the town administrator more authority over cemetery operations. That language has been removed, leaving control with the Cemetery Commission.

A residency requirement was added. Currently, anyone who purchases a plot in a town cemetery may be buried there. Bird said commissioners added language that says those who wish to be buried in town must be residents for at least six months prior to burial, a recommendation from the state.

The rule change will not affect those who have already purchased grave sites. Bird noted commissioners will take into consideration cases of people who were longtime residents, but moved away later in life.

The change passed without debate.