It looks like the cost of burials at Petersburg’s cemetery is going up this year. Petersburg’s borough assembly Thursday approved the second reading of an ordinance boosting the cost of a cemetery plot along with the price for opening and closing a grave.

The cemetery ordinance is the latest in the on-going process to revise municipal code for the old city of Petersburg. The local laws are under-going rewrites to reflect the creation of the Petersburg borough and updates. The new ordinance for the cemetery also reflects this summer’s installation of four columbarium, or cement and granite structures for holding urns of cremated remains. That’s a new option for a final resting place at the borough’s cemetery, operated by the Parks and Recreation Department. The new ordinance has fee increases as well. The cost of a cemetery plot goes up to 300 dollars. It’s cost for the borough to open and close a grave is 800 dollars.

Petersburg installed four new columbarium at the borough's cemetery this summer.

Petersburg installed four new columbarium at the borough’s cemetery this summer.

Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor questioned Parks and Rec director Donnie Hayes about how much it costs the borough to have staff open and close a grave. Hayes’ answer was around 2000 dollars.

“I guess I’m gonna interpret from there and you correct me if I’m mis-interpreting, that the 800 dollar as a borough we’re choosing to subsidize that cost to keep it affordable for families in Petersburg,” Stanton Gregor asked.

“Most definitely,” Hayes responded. Hayes said staff looked into the actual cost of the service and said he and public works director Karl Hagerman decided not to raise fees that high. “And so when she started coming back with these numbers, Karl and I both said to each other, well do we charge our family members that are going to be using this facility, the full amount of what it would actually cost, or do we continue to make this as a public service, which is what it should be.”

Under the proposed ordinance, cost of niche in the new columbarium is 200 dollars, same as the cost for a plot of ground to bury an urn. The fee to place an urn in the columbarium is 175 dollars, or to bury an urn in the ground is 225 dollars.
Old fees charged by the city were 650 dollars to open and close a grave. Placing an urn with cremated remains used to cost 30 dollars. Meanwhile cemetery plots cost 200 dollars under the old fee schedule, or 100 for a child. The old city law also included an allowance for pauper’s graves, for friends or family unable to afford the fees. The new borough ordinance does not include that language.

The mayor and four assembly members approved the ordinance in second reading Thursday. Assemblymen John Havrilek and Kurt Wohlhueter were not at the meeting. The measure needs a third and final approval next month before the fees go up.