Supervisors consider limiting indigent burials to cremation-services only

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


After receiving feedback from funeral directors in Henry County, Supervisors are considering setting stipulations for county-paid burials, which could allow for the county to pay for more burials without the funeral homes taking a financial hit.

Henry County Auditor Shelly Barber has requested an itemization of the basic costs of a cremation and burial from Kathy Brumwell, of Elliott Chapel Funeral Home in New London. Barber wants Supervisors to take a look at the total dollar amount a cremation would cost and come up with a plan for how many burials they will assist with in a fiscal year. Brumwell also said that if the county pays for a burial, it should be mandatory that the body has to be cremated to save on the cost of a coffin.

?If the county is going to pay for it, we can stipulate [cremation],? Barber said.

Sara Berndt approached Supervisors last week proposing an increase in the number of burials paid for by the county every year or doing away with the program because there is only one burial left for the 2018 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Supervisor Greg Moeller voiced concern that even with setting a budget for each cremation, there still has to be an overall budget on how many the county covers the cost of each year. ?You still have a maximum dollar in the budget,? he said.

Barber is adamant that the county continues to cover the costs of burials on some level, saying that it is no different from the county being required to send out a medical examiner for deaths.

?We?ve got to go out to everyone who dies no matter what. We don?t have an option, and I feel like it?s the county?s responsibility if someone is indigent and cannot pay to have [a loved one?s] body cremated to at least get them to that point,? she said during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1.

Barber said that if and when the county meets the dollar amount for cremations allotted in the budget, then they amend the budget.

Supervisor Marc Lindeen added that once the funeral homes? costs rise, they will have to return to Supervisors to ask for an increase for each cremation.

If a family wants additional services such as thank you notes, pamphlets and other services the funeral homes provide, it is their responsibility to cover those funds or the funeral director?s decision as to what ?good will? they are willing to extend, Barber said.

Supervisors still want to have all of the funeral home directors in Henry County join them at a Board of Supervisors meeting to continue the conversation and take a look at the options.