BRATTLEBORO — The Select Board is digging into the town's cemetery ordinance and it could be reducing the amount of members needed for the Cemetery Committee.
"It's becoming more and more difficult to find bodies to fill the slots," said Marshall Wheelock, committee chairman whose term expires on June 16. "It's very difficult to find living beings and so our recommendation is that the membership be limited to a total of five people."
The committee is becoming less and less active, he said, and the issue is important due to the nine-year limit in Brattleboro that only allows residents that amount of time to serve on a particular committee or board. A person must take a year off before joining again.
Currently, the Cemetery Committee can have no more than 12 members and no fewer than five. Three members are leaving this month. With a resignation coming too, Town Clerk Annette Cappy said the committee will be down to just two members.
Other changes to the town's cemetery ordinance also are being proposed. A second reading is scheduled for the Select Board meeting on June 21.
One update could see the committee meeting "as needed with at least one meeting required annually," according to the proposed ordinance. The annual meeting would be held in May. Then the committee could change its schedule at will.
"I can assure you we have not been meeting for twice a month for a number of years now," said Wheelock.
The proposal includes changing the number of cremains allowed to be buried in a plot with an existing casket from two to four containers.
"More and more people are following that path now," said Wheelock. "We're receiving more cremains than caskets."
According to the proposed ordinance changes, the town would require an opening fee of $100 for each burial, including cremains, and a permit along with the fee would be needed for disinterment or relocation of buried bodies or cremains. No more than one standing monument would be allowed in each plot space.
An "eternal flame" is becoming popular for gravesites, according to Wheelock. The term was introduced in a section of the ordinance for artificial arrangements and commemoratives.
"A single, solar-powered light shall be permitted on a gravesite," the document stated. "The light shall be placed within the plot in the space allowed for plantings and shall be no more than 12 inches in height. Glass on any fixture is strictly prohibited."
The committee is recommending that an existing section of Morningside Cemetery known as Maplewood should be designated for burying residents of Brattleboro determined to be indigent.
"The town shall waive the purchase fee of the plot and opening fee," the proposed addition to the ordinance stated. "Burials of cremains only shall be allowed."
The commission suggested creating the Walsh Section of Morningside Cemetery, which would be for the purpose of holding cremains only. The area is in the heart-shaped grass area facing the front of the cemetery's mausoleum at the base of the flagpole.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.