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Upton Ponders Changes to Cemetery Responsibilities

Members of Upton's Cemetery Commission came before the Board of Selectmen to discuss a memorandum drafted by Public Works Director Jeff Thompson concerning the maintenance of the town's four cemeteries. In attendance at the February 19 meeting were Commission members Leo Lamanuzzi, Robert Richard, and Bill Sadler. Thompson was also present.

Thompson's memo discussed the possibility of the DPW taking over the day-to-day maintenance of the town's cemeteries. The town's cemeteries consist of the active Lakeview Cemetery, as well as three historical cemeteries which include First Cemetery, Old North Cemetery, and Pine Grove Cemetery.

The issue concerning the cemeteries came up when Thompson sought clarification concerning an act established in 1989 when the state approved the establishment of a Department of Public Works in Upton. Part of the DPW Act eliminated the Cemetery Commission and transferred all authority concerning the cemeteries to the Department of Public Works. However, since the act was put in place, the Cemetery Commission has continued to oversee the Lakeview Cemetery and to some extent the Pine Grove Cemetery. They also assist funeral directors and families with the funeral process and maintain records of all burials .Thompson's memo pointed out that the current members of the Commission "were not made aware of the changes outlined in the Act and have worked within their resource limits to maintain the cemetery grounds to the best of their abilities."

As discussion got underway, Selectman James Brochu, who was the chair since Selectman Ken Picard was absent, wanted to make it clear that "It is not our intent by any means to dissolve the Cemetery Commission; that is not the intent of this Board...What you do as a Commission is invaluable and very needed."

Cemetery Commission Chair Leo Lamanuzzi told the Board that he and his members abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the Massachusetts Cemetery Commission. "We have never gotten a negative comment from anybody," he said to the Board. He added that through the sale of lots and burial fees, the Commission has given back $19,000 to the town this year.

According to Brochu, the goal of meeting that evening was to begin some dialogue on how to best maintain all the town's cemeteries as well as any future new cemeteries in town. "There are more obstacles now. The areas of responsibility are getting greater and greater," said Brochu. "We need to better comply with the DPW Act."

As a result of that, Thompson came up with several different scenarios on how best to maintain the town's cemeteries which could involve either hiring a new Cemeteries, Parks and Forestry Supervisor or instead appoint a full-time Parks Laborer who would work as a foreman in the DPW Cemeteries, Parks and Forestry Division. All scenarios would cost the town more than what the Cemetery Commission does with its budget of approximately $40,000 annually.

Selectman Robert Fleming said he would eventually also like to see a more standardized process "So everyone knows who does what and how it's done."

Whatever changes occur concerning the maintenance of the cemeteries, the Board agreed it would be a phasing-in process and therefore take time. The Cemetery Commission agreed to review Thompson's memo and report their thoughts back to Town Manager Blythe Robinson.




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