A fight over flowers


Meeting held to discuss future of perpetual care at Riverside Cemetery



By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

The future of the Riverside Cemetery’s Perpetual Care (PC) program, specifically the distribution and care of grave site flowers, was the focus of a public meeting on Thursday, June 28. Just over 100 people packed the backroom at the Neepawa Public Library to share their thoughts on the issue and how it should be operated moving forward.

The open house began with Mayor Adrian de Groot going over a PowerPoint presentation that outlined the numbers associated with the program and a definition of just what “perpetual care” actually is. 

The province’s cemetery act defines “perpetual care” as, “the preservation, improvement, embellishment, and maintenance, in perpetuity and in a proper manner of lots, plots, tombs, monuments, or enclosures, in a cemetery or of compartments in a columbarium or mausoleum.” In Neepawa, however, a local bylaw expands on that definition, stating that perpetual care can include an increased level of individual grave care and maintenance, including the annual planting and care of flowers on the grave. The current cost of the one time fee for this additional service is $1,500. It has been increased in recent years, as in 2014, the fee was just $843.31. When it first began in 1955, the one-time fee was $5.00.

After going over the wording, de Groot moved on to the numbers for the program. One slide indicated that there were 3,809 graves with the pre-paid flower arrangement. In 2018, 3,650 dozen flowers (43,800 in total) were purchased at a total cost of $11,136.15. That amount excludes the time and labour costs required to plant the flowers and maintain them over the course of a season.

As for the overall expenses of the cemetery, in 2017, its operation was pegged at $211,907, while its revenue, which is based on sales of lots/plots/niche’s and interments, was just $118,707. Those numbers show a one-year deficit of 93,200. That shortfall was made up through a portion of property owner’s tax bill.

Once de Groot completed this part of the presentation, he moved on to potential changes being considered to ensure the long-term viability of the cemetery. There were three options presented:


Option one: Flowers continue (Existing only)

- Discontinue sale of grave site flowers.

- Previously purchased grave flowers will continue.

- Flowered lots would have six flowers near the headstone.

- Labour and watering remain as-is


Option two: Flowers continue with changes

- Discontinue sale of grave site flowers.

- Offer flowerbed services - $250/year (subject to change)

- A year-by-year purchased service.

- All previous lots (new and grandfathered in) would have six flowers.

- The option provides little cost savings with respect to labour and watering costs.


Option three: Develop a park-like setting

- Discontinue sale of grave site flowers.

- Flowers reduced from 12 to 9 to 6, with 2020 the last year for flowers on individual graves.

- Prepare and develop cemetery to maintain and expand the ‘park-like’ setting.


The estimated cost per year for option one would be $217,000, with the taxpayer share of the cost being $73,000. Option two’s estimated expense would also be $217,000, with taxpayer’s chipping in $72,000. The third option would see the expenses estimated at around $86,000 per year, with the taxpayers being break even.

After going over the numbers, de Groot then indicated that an alternative needs to be found, as the town can no longer put the burden of a deficit on the current taxpayers or upon future residents to deal with at a later date. 

Once the presentation was completed, the assembled citizens had their chance to have their say. Some in attendance expressed support for the town’s plans, while others were unhappy with the suggestion of changing the deals that they or their families had previously agreed to. A few alternative options for reducing the cost were also brought forward.

At the end of the meeting, de Groot noted to the Banner & Press that he was pleased with the overall level of discussion, while heated at times, remained respectful.

“It was a fairly respectful session. Looking at the situation, looking at the circumstances, It’s understandable that people will be passionate about this topic, whether it’s pro or con on this issue,” stated de Groot. “There was a considerable amount of work and research that went into the presentation that was made at the beginning of the meeting. We were straightforward with the numbers and, I think, that helped people to understand [the Town’s] perspective on the issue. As well, this wasn’t a case of us telling them ‘This is what’s going to happen.’ Some options were provided, some research was done. We have made improvements in the operations there over the last four years and we want to ensure that continues, but does so in a sustainable way.” 

Moving ahead, de Groot said that while the Town did present three different potential options for the future of services at the cemetery at the meeting, they are still open to suggestions. He also noted that the Riverside Cemetery presentation will be placed on the Town’s website and hard copies will be made available at the municipal office for the public.