Local News

Hillside Cemetery in St. Clair to buy new 80-niche columbarium

Hillside Cemetery will soon have a new 80-niche columbarium.

By Jim Bloch

A new 80-unit columbarium in Hillside Cemetery in St. Clair should be sufficient to accommodate the interment of cremains for at least the next eight years.

The city council approved the purchase at its regular meeting on April 19.

“The cemetery currently houses three units of 40 niches each,” said City Clerk Annette Sturdy, as heard on the CTV Channel 6 recording of the meeting. “The Cemetery Board of Trustees is recommending the purchase an 80-niche unit. The 40-niche unit is $15,500. The 80-niche unit is $21,950.”

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The 80-niche unit is two-sided.

The trend is toward cremations over burials, Sturdy said.

“Hillside Cemetery is seeing that, too,” she said. “The collection of data over the past three years support that as well. Purchasing a double-sided unit right now will negate the need for another purchase for approximately four years. So basically we’re extending the life of the columbarium from four years to approximately eight or nine.”

Cremations overtook traditional burials in 2015 as the most popular form of treating the remains of the deceased, according to a 2020 CNN story. The National Funeral Directors Association predicted that by 2040, 80 percent of the deceased will be cremated. The primary impetus behind the shift is cost. In 2016, the average cost of a traditional funeral was $8,000 compared to $2,400 for a cremation.

The city last purchased a columbarium in 2016.

Young Funeral Home in China Township solicited the purchase price as well as the delivery and setting fees for the new columbarium on behalf of the cemetery board. Sturdy asked that the council waive the competitive bidding process in order to purchase the columbarium from Coldspring Granite LLC, which would use same quarry from which the granite came for the cemetery’s existing columbariums, matching it as closely as possible.

“Is this a budgeted purchase?” asked council member Butch Kindsvater.

“Yes and no,” said Sturdy. “The columbarium is a budgeted purchase in the amount of $15,500. So there is a difference of $6,450. I did speak with both the finance director and the city superintendent about the difference and I was given approval to come before council.”

“Where’s the $6,450 coming from?” asked Kindsvater. “The general fund?”

“The cemetery fund last year used $40,000 less general fund dollars than were budgeted, in effect putting more dollars into the fund balance, which will cover the additional expense,” said Sturdy.

“We’re essentially carrying over those savings,” said City Superintendent Warren Rothe. “That fund balance is what we’re using.” The council voted 6-0 to approve the purchase. The second ward seat of Tom McCartney is currently vacant following his resignation April 5.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com.

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