Selectmen approve new cemetery policies, increase notification times and fees

Above: Southborough’s Rural Cemetery

A change in the union contract for DPW workers means more notice will be required to hold a Monday burial at Southborough’s Rural Cemetery. It’s a move one local funeral director said was insensitive to grieving families.

On most days, 24-hour notice is required by the DPW to prepare for a burial. But if the burial is to happen on a Monday, the department now needs to know by Friday at 10:00 am. That’s because cemetery workers are no longer on call over the weekend like they have been in the past.

Town Administrator Jean Kitchen told selectmen earlier this week that weekend on-call pay was costing the town too much money. In the past, cemetery workers were paid a fee to be on-call, and then paid an additional amount if they were called in, for example, to prepare a grave for a funeral on Monday.

Weekend on-call pay was written out of the 3-year DPW contract signed last spring, a move Selectman Bill Boland said would save the town “thousands.”

Because cemetery workers will no longer be available at a moment’s notice over the weekend, DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan said they need to prepare for a Monday burial the preceding Friday. Stephen Morris, director of Morris Funeral Home in Southborough said the deadline would put additional strain on grieving families.

“You have to respect the fact that these people have paid taxes for 70 or 80 years,” Morris said of his Southborough clients. “If you tell them you can’t get someone in there to dig a grave on a Saturday, you’re going to have some upset people.”

Cemetery workers will still be available to assist with burials on a Saturday, but as they have been in the past, families will be charged a “premium” fee to cover the overtime. Selectmen voted to increase the fee from $175 to $250. The premium fee is in addition to the $600 charged to prepare a grave for burial.

Galligan said the new policy is in line with surrounding towns, and that having cemetery workers on call over the weekend was “unheard of.”

While the Friday 10:00 am deadline is the new policy, Galligan said cemetery workers are sensitive to the needs of families in mourning, and will do their best to be flexible. “Sudden death does happen,” she said. “If we can accommodate it, we will.”

Galligan said through October of this year the cemetery had handled 42 burials. The most common day for a burial is Friday, followed by Thursday and Saturday.

The new cemetery rules and regulations will go into effect on February 1, 2012.

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