Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 18:19
Officials say ice, snow make steep cemetery too dangerous for digging
This winter has been so cold and snowy, it may force the Village of Saukville to reconsider how it handles burial requests at Union Cemetery.
Last week, Public Works Director Roy Wilhelm recommended a series of seasonal changes for the village-owned graveyard to the Public Works Committee following a near disaster.
The problem areas are the tiers — earthen plateaus on the west side of the cemetery that are virtually impossible to access when it is snowy and icy.
“We had a request for a burial on a tier last week, and we couldn’t even get a skid-steer with tracks up there,” Wilhelm told the committee.
While trying to climb to the tier, he said the equipment began to slide sideways and nearly toppled over.
“There is no way we could have gotten a digger up there. It is too dangerous. It doesn’t make sense having our people risking life and limb to open a grave,” Wilhelm said.
Even though the deceased person already had a grave plot and headstone in the cemetery, the burial had to be postponed as a safety precaution.
“The person was a veteran and there was supposed to be a full military honor guard at the cemetery. People would have been falling, including the pallbearers, putting the village at risk of liability,” Wilhelm said.
To avoid that scenario, he suggested the village amend its cemetery ordinance to prohibit burials on the tiers from Dec. 1 to April 1.
Wilhelm said even that restriction might not be broad enough some years, noting it could be much later than April 1 before the frost is out of the ground this year.
With that in mind, he also suggested charging three times the normal $300 opening fee for opening graves if the ground is frozen.
In addition, Wilhelm asked that funeral directors provide at least five days notice for grave openings.
Wilhelm and village historian Jim Peterson said they can’t remember the last time a winter burial was held at the cemetery.
The proposed changes have been sent to the village attorney for review, and will be presented to the Village Board for action at its March 18 meeting.