Discussion needed about perpetual care


Rick Sparling

The Neepawa Press

In order to bring this topic out in the open and get some discussion started, I'm going to express my opinion about Riverside Cemetery's controversial “Perpetual Care” program (PC). Since my family plot has PC, I feel I am entitled to at least have my say on the matter.

It seems as though there are two different views as to what PC includes. The provincial definition is totally opposite of that of our town's by-law. The provincial by-law indicates that PC includes services such as tree trimming, grass mowing and the general upkeep of the grounds.

The Town of Neepawa's by-law mentions more than once that the provision of flowers is what you are paying for when you buy PC.

The bylaw reads, “Bylaw 3149 Perpetual Care- shall refer to the fee paid for the planting of flowers on a single grave for preservation, improvement, embellishment and maintenance in perpetuity and in a proper manner of lots.

Perpetual Care at the cemetery, excluding the Cremation Garden, shall provide an increased level of individual grave care and maintenance which shall include the planting and care of flowers on the grave. Each grave receiving perpetual care shall have flowers planted and the care of the grave shall be as determined by council from time to time.”

This last sentence is cause for some concern. Does that mean the council can reduce the amount of flowers, say from 12 to eight? And then in a year or two, from eight to four?

Maybe the answer is to shorten the grave to half sod and even 10 flowers per grave would look full.

Sodding half of the graves would be a one time cost and the maintenance thereafter would be less and the cost of flowers would be as well. That is one suggestion.

It seems pretty clear, from the Town's by-law, what we can expect in the way of individual grave care.

The money paid for PC, in my opinion, is to provide flowers on the plot, water and weed them and remove them in the fall.

A hypothetical situation would be when two people came in and asked about PC. One man (A) says that he will pay the $1,500 it cost for PC and the other (B) says that there is no way he could afford it.

Since regardless whether PC is purchased, the trees are still going to be pruned, trimmed and shaped, the grass is still going to be mowed and the general upkeep of the entire grounds will be maintained, so what does A get over and above what B gets? It could only be flowers.

The real issue is partly because many of the PCs were bought years ago at low rates. If you bought your PC plan in the 1950s, for example, you might only have paid $50. That's perpetual care for over 60 years for $50! The other problem is that interest rates have dropped significantly over the years so the PC fund hasn't been able to keep up to the cost of running it.

Has the real cost of providing flowers ever been calculated? What is the cost for the flowers? How many man hours are spent planting, watering, weeding and removing the flowers and what is the average salary of those providing those services? How did the figure of $1,500 come about? What is the actual cost of maintaining one grave? How many graves have perpetual care?

Does any other cemetery in Manitoba have a PC program similar to Neepawa's?  Or for that matter, does any other cemetery in Western Canada have a similar program? If so, how are they managing? And if not, I suppose we have something very special in Neepawa.

This year, part of the solution was to reduce the amount of flowers on each grave and frankly, for the most part, the cemetery still looks nice. If someone I know is going to Neepawa for any reason, I always tell them to make sure they check out the cemetery. So far it has always been something that I'm proud about.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but it does need to come out front and centre and be the topic of comprehensive discussions. Getting all of the pros and cons out on the table is what is needed and the sooner the better.