It just got a little more expensive to settle into your final resting place at Greenwood Cemetery.
At the Monday night meeting of the Birmingham City Commission, commissioners voted to raise the rates at Birmingham's historic cemetery on Oak, including the fees for full burials and internment of cremated remains.
The city will now charge $1,200 for a full burial — up from $600 — a change that city officials argue reflects the current market prices in the cemetery industry.
Also approved by commissioners Monday is a new policy that will allow grave plot owners, or their heirs, to bury up to two sets of cremated remains in a plot already inhabited by a casket. The cost for each cremation burial is now $750.
per the request of the city commission, as they looked for ways to find more burial space at the historic cemetery as well as bring in more revenue.
According to Sloane, the cemetery — which is 10 years shy of its 200th birthday — only brought in $7,500 in 2011. The Department of Public Services typically spends around $12,000 a year in labor costs at the cemetery while the price for lawn care, outsourced last year, costs $18,000 a year.
Sloane said there's currently a waiting list of more than 100 Birmingham residents who want to be buried at Greenwood. However, with the City Clerk's grave reclamation process at a standstill, the cemetery simply has no more room left.
According to Sloane's original report, presented to the city commission in late October, recommendations include increasing the fees at Greenwood, building a colmbarium and eliminating a road to add more grave plots.
On Monday night, however, commissioners only approved the change in fees as well as the recommendation to bury cremated remains in an occupied grave site.
Other rate changes at the cemetery include:
- Administrative fee for transfer of grave ownership: $150 (up from $50)
- Foundation installation for markers and monumenets: $125 per linear foot
- Additional charge for weekend, holiday and overtime burials: $400 (up from $200)
In addition, commissioners agreed to pay Sloane an additional $1,000 on top of his current consulting contract to help development and issue a Request for Proposals. The RFPs would be used to find a private contractor who would eventually take over cemetery operations.
Though she voted for both resolutions, City Commissioner Rackeline Hoff said she was worried all this talk about rate hikes detracts from Greenwood's historic significance to Birmingham.
"One of my concerns is that this may not be observing the history and just be turning (the cemetery) into a money-making opportunity," Hoff said. "(It sounds like the focus is on) turning this into a moneymaker rather than the historic preservation of something that's unique to Birmingham."
Though the city wasn't many of Sloane's long-term recommendations Monday night, City Manager Bob Bruner assured commissioners that all attempts to make money would go toward creating a trust fund, which could be used to maintain Greenwood into perpetuity.
"Sloane is going to work for us," Bruner said. "We can structure the relationship (so) that it's most beneficial to the city."