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Greenfield to take control of 2 cemeteries

Also creates town cemetery commission

Federal Street Cemetery.  
(Recorder/Paul Franz)

Federal Street Cemetery. (Recorder/Paul Franz)

GREENFIELD — The town is about to take over the operation and maintenance of two cemeteries, one on Federal Street and the other at the intersection of Colrain Road and Colrain Street near the entrance to Greenfield Community College.

That will bring the number of cemeteries the town owns to four, but first the mayor wants a cemetery commission formed.

Mayor William Martin said the cost of running the cemeteries will not increase much for the town, because it will mostly entail mowing, plowing and removing dead trees and limbs, all of which will be the responsibility of the Department of Public Works.

“We’ll have to repair and set upright a few memorials, but the town should be able to do that,” said Martin.

He said the cemetery commission’s first duty will be to create an ordinance that guides the town in cemetery ownership and details the responsibilities of the commission, as well as how it will perform its duties.

Town Council approved the creation of a cemetery commission last month, so now the mayor must fill the five-member board with appointees.

Martin said he will ask Town Council to approve three appointees to the commission this month: local historian Peter Miller and former selectman and chairman of the town’s Board of License Commissioners William B. Allen, both of whom have served on cemetery commissions or associations for more than 40 years, and James Morin, an engineer and surveyor for the town’s public works department.

“There will also be someone from the Native American community on the commission and I will choose a fifth person,” said Martin. “I haven’t decided on those appointments yet, but at least we can get things going with three people.”

The town currently owns two small graveyards, one near Camp Kee-wanee and one across from Severance Street on Bernardston Road. Martin said maintenance of those two has been no more than mowing on occasion.

Martin said that according to state law, the town must take ownership of the cemeteries on Federal Street and Colrain Road, because the associations overseeing them have decided to dissolve.

“The association for the one on Colrain Road and Colrain Street is one elderly woman who lives out of state,” said Martin. “That association has no money in its account and no one here to take care of it.”

The association that has owned the cemetery on Federal Street for decades and is le d by Miller has decided it can no longer maintain it. He said recently that the association is running out of money.

“There’s about $5,000 in that account,” said Martin. “It won’t cost the town a lot in maintenance, because it will just be added to the list of what the town’s parks and recreation division (of the DPW) does.”

Martin said he has also appointed Arthur Baker, the town’s director of public works, as the town’s liaison to the commission.

The mayor said the town will take ownership as soon as both associations have dissolved, which should be soon.

“We’ll begin looking at scheduling maintenance,” said Martin.

He said he would like the town to do a feasibility study on Federal Street Cemetery, which still has plots available.

“We’d like to see if selling some of those plots will help the cemetery maintain itself,” he said. “We’d like to know if there are people who are interested in owning plots there.”

Miller said there are still plots available, but wasn’t sure how many.

“We can’t bury anyone in the front of the cemetery, because it’s on a water table,” said Miller, who has been president of the association since 1988.

Columbarium proposed

Martin said he has also briefly discussed the idea of the town building a columbarium, which is similar to a mausoleum, but instead of spaces for caskets, has niches for urns that contain cremated remains, on the Federal Street side of the cemetery.

He said the feasibility study would also look at how many people would be interested in buying space in the columbarium and if there were enough interest, whether selling space would cover the cost of construction.

Miller said the association voted to disband at its last annual meeting. He said it plans to turn the cemetery over to the town by July 1.

You can reach Anita Fritz at: afritz@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 280.

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