City Council Votes Down Proposal To Add a Cemetery Commission

 The City Council voted by an 8-0 margin against the establishing of a paid, five-member Cemetery Commission that would have the care and management over the Glenwood Cemetery in Everett.

In a Dec. 21 letter to the Council, Mayor Carlo DeMaria had requested that the Administrative Code be amended to “include the organization of a cemetery commission.” The mayor also requested a revision in the city ordinances that the responsibilities of caring for the cemetery be transferred from the Everett Department of Public Works to the Cemetery Commission.

Erin Deveney, chief of staff in the Office of Mayor DeMaria, who appeared with City Solicitor Colleen Mejia at the public hearing, was most impressive in patiently providing answers to questions from the Council about the proposed Cemetery Commission. Deveney noted in her opening remarks that there are Cemetery Commissions in several cities and towns throughout Massachusetts.

Councilor Al Lattanzi felt the Cemetery Commission should consist of volunteers who do not receive stipends.

“The last 30 years, I’ve been on six different boards and commissions, and not one of them has ever been paid,” said Lattanzi. “I volunteered because I wanted to give back to the city.”

Councilor Stephanie Smith asked if there is currently a superintendent of cemeteries position and whether the superintendent would report to the Commission or the DPW.

“We do have management staff and employees within city services (DPW) who are assigned there, and the reporting structure would remain the same,” responded Deveney.

Smith also suggested that the terms of each commissioner should be staggered, so that “every three years, we’re not having a completely new board.”

Councilor-at-Large John Hanlon made it clear that he was against establishing a Cemetery Commission.

“I’m opposed to the whole thing,” declared Hanlon.

Hanlon noted that several years ago the cemetery was under the supervision of one person, “and she did a terrific job.”

“That’s all we needed down there,” continued Hanlon. “And even now, if you have a five-member commission, who’s going to dig the graves? The Board of Public Works. Who’s going to dig the graves? The Board of Public Works. Who’s going to lower the casket? The Board of Public Works. The Commission is really not going to do anything. So, it’s just a waste of time. We’ve gone through this before. We know it can work with one person who is an employee of the Public Works. We really don’t need five commissioners to do nothing.”

Following the Council’s vote, Deveney told the Everett Independent, “The Mayor’s proposal was for a Cemetery Commission which is a similar board that is in use in other communities to advise communities on how they can ensure appropriately maintained public cemeteries, and the Mayor thought it was a smart time to introduce the concept in the city, given the recent, significant capital improvements that were made to the cemetery.” “The Mayor’s goal was to make sure that we are taking every step that we should be taking to make sure the cemetery is a quiet and respectful place for Everett families to honor the memory of their loved ones.”

Deveney added that Mayor DeMaria has not made any decision whether he will be submitting an amended proposal for a Cemetery Commission for the Council’s consideration.

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