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‘Green burial,’ town complex, broadband on Heath town meeting

HEATH — The right to have “green” burials in town cemeteries, and the search for a site for a town Public Safety Complex is on the warrant for Saturday’s annual town meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in the Heath Elementary School.

For the budget year that begins July 1, the town is seeking a $311,985 municipal operating budget, which represents a $13,813 increase over the current budget. Requested school spending is $776,172 for Mohawk Trail district schools (the high school and Heath Elementary School) and $41,533 for the Franklin County Technical School.

The warrant seeks voters’ approval for the Mohawk Trail Regional School District to borrow up to $542,778 for a capital improvement project for Mohawk and $88,500 for a capital improvement project for the Heath Elementary School. However, the Mohawk middle and high school capital project has already been defeated by some of the member towns.

This year, the Cemetery Commission has been developing policies to permit so-called green burials, in which the deceased is buried without embalming fluids or environmentally harmful chemicals, and also without a metal vault. One vote asks voters to change a 1997 “rules for the town cemetery,” which reads: “No interment of two or more bodies shall be made in one grave, except in the case of mother and child or two infants buried in one casket.” That would be replaced with: “One traditional burial and up to three cremain (cremation remains) burials, or up to six cremain burials with no traditional burial are the maximum allowed in any single grave. No interment of two or more traditional burials in one gave, except in the case of a parent and child, or two infants buried in one casket.”

A second article defines green burials and says they will be allowed in town cemeteries. If no vault is used, a leak-proof shroud or a casket that collapses as the ground is filled in would be required, to maintain a level soil surface and prevent accidental puncture of graves. The green burial grave must be at least five feet to the bottom, and the cemetery sexton must be informed of green burial plans when the interment request is made.

Speaking of cemeteries, the town will vote to accept a piece of land known as the North Cemetery, at the corner of Brunelle and Sadoga roads. The town would use this for cemetery purposes; there is also a request for a $2,000 money transfer for maintaining the North Cemetery.

Voters will be asked to spend $35,805 on a new police vehicle.

Two articles may have future impact. One is a request for the town to consider, at a future special town meeting, whether to participate in a “last mile” broadband network, to serve local residents and businesses. The other is to seek residents’ permission to “consider design, construction, and/or the purchase of property for a public safety complex building project at a future special town meeting.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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