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Gainesville may raise rates at Alta Vista Cemetery

Municipal-owned cemetery facing higher overhead

POSTED: May 15, 2014 11:14 p.m.

It will soon be a little more expensive to die in Gainesville, if you want to be buried at Alta Vista Cemetery.

City officials are looking to increase burial rates and fees for other services at the 140-year-old municipal-owned resting place.

Prices have not been raised since 2004 when the city expanded the cemetery and built a mausoleum.

"Ten years is a little long," Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

Because of rising operating costs, cemetery officials want to increase rates to better correspond with fees charged by similar graveyards in the region.

Cemetery Superintendent Tommy Hunt outlined the proposed rate changes at a City Council work session Thursday morning.

If approved, the cost of a traditional grave burial in either the old or new section of the cemetery will increase for both residents and nonresidents of Gainesville by $200-$400.

Meanwhile, Hunt has proposed a 15 percent increase in mausoleum spaces and a $100 increase in niche spaces.

"We’re getting to the point where you can’t afford to die," Councilman George Wangemann said.

Gallows humor aside, Alta Vista is becoming a bigger and bigger business. And as the baby boomer generation ages, officials are seeing new trends emerge in the last rites
of the deceased.

For example, cremation is becoming a larger slice of the cemetery’s financial pie, Hunt said. In-ground cremation interment would cost $125 under the new fee structure.

Additionally, Internet sales of gravestones and markers are growing by the year, prompting the cemetery to end its free installation and begin charging a $75 fee.

Though most of the new rates are meant to reflect market dynamics, a few problems at the cemetery have been the catalyst for other proposed changes.

At the work session, Hunt showed several pictures of improper grave digging. Shallow plots dug by representatives of local funeral homes have left some caskets exposed.

Hunt said, as a matter of quality control, that he wants to hire a vendor to perform the grave digging at a cost of about $800 to $1,000 per grave.

City officials said they would prepare an ordinance amendment to reflect the rate and fee changes, likely bringing it to council for a vote in June.

The cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Everyone from Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans to former state governors and even an astronaut are buried there.

"The one thing the cemetery does have is time," Hunt said.

 



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