By Nick Worth
Fees for non-resident burial in Holbrook’s cemetery are due to increase 300 percent from the current rate of $750.
According to a city ordinance which received its first reading at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, non-residents who wish to be buried in Holbrook Municipal Cemetery will have to pay a fee of $3,000.
City Manager Ray Alley explained the need for the increase to the council, saying people have been requesting burial in Holbrook’s cemetery because the rates are cheaper than elsewhere.
“People from other places are coming in and filling up our cemetery and we don’t want that,” Alley said.
Alley told the council rates for residents will not be increasing from their current level of $375.
“We’ve been averaging 30 funerals per year and about half of them are non-residents,” City Finance Director Randy Sullivan told The Tribune-News. He said the non-resident fees for the Winslow cemetery are set at $1,500 plus opening and closing, whereas Holbrook’s are currently set at $750.
Councilman Bobby Tyler asked Alley how long it would be before the cemetery is full if the council did not pass the ordinance.
“We’ll be full in five to 10 years without the planned expansion,” Alley replied. He said the expansion of the cemetery will give the city another five to 10 years if the ordinance does not pass.
“If this passes, it will buy us another 20 years,” Sullivan told The Tribune-News.
Councilman Richard Peterson, who was running the meeting in the absence of Mayor Jeff Hill, Vice Mayor Charles Haussman and Councilman Wade Carlisle, remarked the proposed rate of $3,000 is more expensive than Mesa’s non-resident rate.
“I guess this is a disincentive,” Peterson said and Alley agreed.
According to the ordinance, in addition to the rate increase to $3,000 for a standard 5’x10’ grave space for non-residents, rates for non-resident infant/child or urn grave spaces will also increase.
The cost for an urn-only quarter plot will rise from the current rate of $200 to $600 and the cost of a half plot will rise from $350 to $1,050.
The second reading of the ordinance will be held at the next council meeting on April 8, where it will be voted on.
In other action March 25, the council:
* Held a public hearing on the upcoming override election.
Sullivan told the council the state currently requires the city to stay within an expenditure limit which is set by a formula based on 1978 census numbers. The current restriction says the city cannot spend more than $6.8 million.
“We stayed within that limit last year,” Sullivan told the council. “This year we’re asking to increase it by $500,000 to pay for increased jail fees.”
Sullivan noted the override would not increase taxes.
“It just allows us to spend what we’re already getting,” he said. He said the extra $500,000 the city is asking to be allowed to spend would be earmarked for street improvements and other needed maintenance.
“It will allow us to invest in the community and the infrastructure,” Sullivan said.
Councilman Phil Cobb echoed Sullivan’s comments, noting, “We have the money. We will not be increasing taxes.”
Sullivan added that the override is just for one year. He also said two public meetings will be held on Tuesday, April 1. The first meeting is at the Holbrook Library from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and the second will be held at 6 p.m. in the council chamber.
Immediately after the 6 p.m. meeting, the council will adjourn into a special meeting to approve the election.
“There won’t be any jokes,” Alley said, referring to April Fool’s Day. “This meeting is critical.”
* Heard a report from Alley that work on the east side park on Navajo Blvd. will begin soon, starting with some curb and gutter work.
He also noted that Sullivan and several city crew members have been working at Hidden Cove Golf Course to make improvements.
Alley also told the council he has volunteers ready to help keep a watch on the course because of recent vandalism and that some city workers will have their hours changed in order to keep watch during times when vandalism has been prevalent.
* Heard a report from Chief of Police Mark Jackson that the three officers in the police academy are “looking good for May graduation.”
Jackson said it would be August before the new officers are allowed out on patrol by themselves and that in the meantime, the department is still running short-handed.
“I’ve had my detective taking calls,” Jackson said.
He told the council work is still progressing on the new policies and procedures manual, and that officers did some graffiti cleanup last week.
Jackson then said the police department’s volunteer program is in “limbo” right now.
“We have four or five applications now,” Jackson said. “We can’t move forward until we get the SOP approved.”
He said two trucks for use by the volunteers have been obtained from the U.S. Army, and have been painted and equipped with radios.
* Approved a resolution authorizing the renewal of the city’s membership in the Rural Arizona Group Health Trust.
Alley noted there would be a six percent increase in the premiums paid by city employees.
“We’re proposing we eat that six percent raise for our employees,” Alley said. Sullivan said the increase would amount to about $60 per employee.
* Approved ProForce as sole-source provider for ammunition, Taser cartridges and duty weapons for the police department.
“Getting three quotes from vendors is getting to be a chore,” said Jackson. He told the council he has had trouble getting other, out-of-state companies to reply to his requests for bids and that ProForce is a local Arizona dealer.
“They’ve always been the low bidder, they have everything we need and I would ask we make them our sole-supplier for a period of two years,” Jackson said.
* Approved a lease agreement with Jose Agramont for a city-owned house located at the Holbrook Municipal Airport.
Alley said the city will provide all utilities except for television service and in exchange, Agramont will clean the airport office and restrooms, do tests on the fuel tanks, take out trash and handle other upkeep duties.
Alley told the council that Agramont is a city worker and has applied to replace Tim Kelley, who held the position before him. Agramont will perform the airport duties in addition to his regular city job.
* Approved an agreement with Misty Hatch to allow her to give essential oils classes at the Holbrook Fitness Center.
The council approved the agreement on the condition that Hatch not use the center for a sales office for the oils.
* Awarded a contract for hauling city bins to the landfill to Blue Hills Environmental.
Alley said the company came in as low bidder, and would charge a hauling fee of $350 for two bins, plus $21.50 per ton.
* Approved a payment of $10,000 to the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce for Wild West Days.
Sullivan told The Tribune-News the payment would be made as a bulk payment this year and would change to a monthly payment next year.
By Nick Worth