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Cemetery options discussed at committee meeting

The Columbarium at Penticton's Lakeview Cemetery. The city has eternal obligations to the burial grounds regardless of whether it is privatized or not.
Image Credit: City of Penticton
December 17, 2014 - 9:30 AM

PENTICTON -Penticton city council was given a refresher course on the state of Lakeview Cemetery at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, Dec. 15.

The cemetery issue raised some controversy during council’s initial budget discussions on Dec. 8. At that time, Councillor Helena Konanz asked Penticton Public Works Manager Len Robson to describe the business case for the cemetery, suggesting it might be in the city’s interest to find a private operator for the burial grounds.

A $400,000 request from staff to expand the cemetery was set aside by council during that meeting so councillors could thoroughly discuss the issue at Monday’s committee meeting.

Robson told the committee that without expansion, the city will have no room for burials in Lakeview Cemetery by 2019.  (There is currently no burial capacity left at Fairview Cemetery, which is also operated by the city.) If the city were to continue to move forward with the master plan, which was endorsed by the previous council, the city could begin phased expansion into the southwest corner of the cemetery property by 2017.

Robson pointed out the best the city could do was recoup operating and maintenance costs, comparing cemetery operation to that of a pool.

“We’re not trying to recoup actual capital costs,” he said.

Investment returns on the cemetery’s phase one and two developments are projected to generate a revenue potential of $2,328,992 and a surplus of $1,488,820 over 10 years.

Robson said the cemetery contained enough land to continue use for another 50 years. It was located in a picturesque location in addition to having historical value.

“It’s an asset to the community, a place to stay forever,” he said.

Robson pointed out the city would also be ultimately responsible for the Columbarium debt ($218,704 per year until 2028) in addition to funding the Perpetual Care and Cemetery Reserve Fund.

Should the city decide to divest itself of the cemetery, Robson warned of the potential for increased rates at the hands of private operators.

Coun. Andre Martin asked how much money was currently in the Perpetual Care Fund to which Robson answered, “We have $911,000. We need $9.3 million."

Robson said there were too many variables to say how much of a subsidy the cemetery might require in future years. He also noted it wasn’t unusual for a city of Penticton’s size to look after its own cemeteries.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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