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Article updated: 5/24/2013 1:37 PM

Batavia updating cemetery code to match state law on care, finances

The city of Batavia takes great pride in the upkeep of its two cemeteries, Mayor Jeff Schielke says. West Batavia Cemetery, above, is on Batavia Avenue. East Batavia Cemetery on Washington Street.

The city of Batavia takes great pride in the upkeep of its two cemeteries, Mayor Jeff Schielke says. West Batavia Cemetery, above, is on Batavia Avenue. East Batavia Cemetery on Washington Street.

 

Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

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Batavia is updating its cemetery law, getting rid of outdated portions and aligning it with changes in state law.

In particular, the city will likely no longer sell "perpetual care" for graves, mausoleums, crypts and niches at its two cemeteries.

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That's due to the 2010 Illinois Cemetery Oversight Act, which aimed to more strictly regulate cemeteries in the wake of the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal near Alsip in 2009, in which more than 200 bodies were removed from their original plots, put in a mass grave, and their plots resold.

"We already act like the state wants us to act," city administrator Bill McGrath told aldermen at a joint committees meeting Tuesday, reviewing the proposed changes.

Instead of perpetual care, which was required and cost $350 for a regular-size grave, the city will now set the limit at 25 years of care. The price is the same.

"The state has gotten rid of the notion of perpetual care, acknowledging that no city or municipality could realistically pledge perpetual care or maintenance," McGrath said. Under perpetual care, part of the fee charged buyers would have to be put into a trust fund. The changes in state law require more reporting of what was done with those funds to the department of financial and professional regulation. Cemeteries used to fall under the purview of the state comptroller.

McGrath said the amount the city has been able to charge for perpetual care hasn't come close the last 10 years to paying for cemetery care; the city dips in to the general fund to make up the shortfall.

"Our intentions are we will always take care of our cemeteries," he said. "Our employees take huge pride in taking care of the cemeteries."

Mayor Jeff Schielke praised city workers for how they manage the cemeteries.

"It is a much more unique set of circumstances than what people realize," he said. Particularly because they are dealing with people who are grieving, or feeling sentimental. People have wanted to plant Christmas trees on their loved ones' graves, and have been known to leave Christmas gifts there, he said. Others have asked permission to camp out at a relative's grave on anniversaries of deaths.

"There is a sensitivity that the city staff ... get involved with on this on an ongoing basis," Schielke said.

No changes are proposed to the current plot fees or opening and closing costs. Burial in a standard-size grave, including opening and closing, costs a minimum of $1,450 for a resident, $1,650 for a nonresident. Infant and cremation graves are less. Extra is charged for openings and closings on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and after 2 p.m. weekdays.

The 2013 city budget shows the perpetual care fund starting with about $116,456 in reserves, and receiving $7,300 in fees and interest income.

The public works department is responsible for the cemeteries.

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