Residents to dig up money for cemetery

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MINOT – Cemetery space in Minot is just about used up, and a town committee wants residents to do something about it.

While ultimately that something could mean the town could be more involved in the cemetery business than it already is, the cemetery committee’s first step is a request that voters at the March meeting raise $10,000 to begin the process of finding land for a new graveyard.

Chairman George “Buster” Downing said the committee is hoping to find land adjoining existing cemeteries, but new, affordable plots will be entertained as well.

The money would be used for prepurchase expenses such as soil tests, surveys, legal fees, land options or placing binders on property.

Downing explained that about three or four years ago, when he was a selectman, talk of the need for more cemetery space began, but it wasn’t until town meeting that a cemetery committee was formed to take a serious look at a solution.

Most of the town’s 28 cemeteries are little more than small family plots and are full.

Of the town’s two largest cemeteries, which date back to the late 1700s, only one, Riverside Cemetery, has any room.

According to Sherrie Leighton, secretary/treasurer of Riverside, 20 of the West Minot cemetery’s 140 developed lots are available and, if some remaining land is cleared and elevated somewhat, there is the possibility another 20 lots could be added.

All 100 lots in the Center Hill Cemetery next to the Center Minot Hill Church are full, according to Helen Clifford, secretary/treasurer of the cemetery corporation.

“The problem is not unique to Minot,” said Dana Chandler of Weston-Chandler Funeral Homes in Mechanic Falls. Chandler pointed out that Buckfield and Norway have recently developed new town cemetery space.

Minot has been paying a private contractor to maintain most of its cemeteries. Recently, Minot has had different people mowing the cemeteries, so beginning this year, responsibility for the cemetery in town is going to the town highway department.

“Your family cemetery began with no perpetual care and with relatives disappearing, it’s the town that has taken over. Even small cemetery associations are finding their money reserves are being depleted, so more and more, it’s all going to pass over to the towns,” said Downing.

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