Cemetery committee created despite dissent

The township will soon have a new cemetery committee, despite a recommendation to the contrary from staff and Mayor John Green.

At a meeting on March 10 councillor Bruce Whale suggested the township form the committee after Ken and Mary Thompson, of Heritage Funeral Home in Drayton, said there are issues regarding funeral ar­rangements at the Drayton cemetery.

Staff was directed to prepare a report on the matter and last week Chief Administrative Officer Patty Sinna­mon told council a cemetery committee would not solve anything.

“A committee of council cannot alter the bylaw as ap­proved by council,” Sinnamon said in her report.

She ex­plained staff has arranged several meetings with Heritage Funeral Home to discuss the township’s bylaw, but those officials cancelled. She also re­futed claims by the Thompsons that Mapleton is the only muni­cipality that gives it problems.

“I am not aware of any other municipality where contact is not made through the municipality when purchasing interment rights,” Sinnamon said, adding the Ontario Funeral Professionals Asso­cia­tion is opposed to funeral dir­ectors carrying out that work on behalf of families.

Green agreed with Sinna­mon and said one of the reasons the old cemetery committee was disbanded is non-elected members were being treated the same as elected ones.

“I can’t see that a committee will be any more effective than what we’re doing now,” Green said.

“I think we’ve been very effective as a council.”

The mayor added there is still some work to do, but over the last year or so, council has taken great strides in regards to cemeteries.

Whale said he thinks a cemetery committee could help solve issues, and not just those brought up by the Thompsons.

Staff and council has enough to do, he said, and it may help if the “background work” can be done at the committee level.

With the township’s fire com­mittee now gone, there’s room for another committee, Whale said, and while council deals primarily with one funeral home, it should ensure it is providing the best possible service.

Councillor Jim Curry, who for years was on the old cemetery committee, agreed.

“I’d certainly be in favour of reinstating it,” Curry said, noting the former committee performed a number of valuable jobs, not the least of which was acting as a “liaison” between council and funeral directors.

“I think a committee and council can work hand-in-hand,” he added.

Public works director Larry Lynch wondered if a committee would mean more work for his staff.

“I’m not so sure it’s warranted,” Lynch said, adding his department has made great strides to improve cemeteries. “I do think we’re working to­wards a program in general for cemeteries.”

But councillor Mike Down­ey replied, “There are still a lot of unresolved issues.”

Councillor Dennis Craven added, “It’s worth a try.”

Craven, Downey, Curry, and Whale all voted in favour of  forming a cemetery committee. As mayor, Green did not vote, and the motion passed.

The seven-member committee will include two members of council, one representative each from the public works and clerk’s departments and three “at-large” members, for whom the township will advertise.