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Pet cemeteries too costly, staff report concludes

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | May 10, 2014 - 7:00 AM |
A staff report this week nixed the idea of opening a municipal pet cemetery to generate more revenue to maintain the 25 human cemeteries in Greater Sudbury. File photo.

A staff report this week nixed the idea of opening a municipal pet cemetery to generate more revenue to maintain the 25 human cemeteries in Greater Sudbury. File photo.

But will launch pilot project to gauge demand for green burials

 The city won't be getting into the pet cemetery business after all.

A report prepared for the community services committee this week concluded that, rather being a source of new revenue for the municipality, the facilities actually lose money. There's only one such cemetery in Ontario, in Brockville.

“That cemetery is not financially viable,” the report said.

Where pet cemeteries do exist, they are normally run by non-profit groups or the private sector. They must be completely severed from human cemeteries, and staff were unable to find any city-run facilities where the fees charged for burials were enough to match the long-term maintenance costs.

“Greater Sudbury (already) faces challenges generating a surplus from human cemeteries with only one (Civic Memorial) out of 25 being financially sustainable without tax levy support,” the report said.

However, offering so-called green burials are at least worth more study, the report concluded. The committee approve a pilot project to designate a small section at the Civic Cemetery for green burial spaces, allowing them to gauge demand.

A certain standard must be met to qualify as a green burial. For example, everything getting buried must be completely biodegradable and eco-friendly. Only natural wood caskets or biodegradable shrouds may be used as containers and grave markers must be of natural stone.

The question of pet cemeteries came up during a presentation in December by Ron Henderson, the city's director of citizen services, on ways to fund the care and maintenance of the city's 25 municipal cemeteries. Henderson told the committee nine of the cemeteries are still in use, and fees from the active ones fund the maintenance of the 16 full ones.

However, he said there's a $300,000 gap between the fees they collect and the capital costs of maintaining the cemeteries. To make matters worse, three of the cemeteries – Waters Cemetery in Walden, St. John's in Garson and Maple Crest in Onaping Falls – are nearly full.

“And to expand cemeteries is a very expensive task,” Henderson said.

There are also 35,000 monuments in the cemeteries, which the city must maintain to ensure they don't become safety hazards, he said.

“And every year, especially with the frost in this city, it's a real challenge to keep them upright.”

The city already has a pet crematorium – privately owned Memory Gardens in Lively.

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Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer


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