Monday, November 24, 2014

Trash is new hot button in town

The town purchased a new trash and recycle truck last year in order to reduce their costs for trash pickup and reap the benefits from recycling.  It's been a relatively smooth transition with some bumps around what is recyclable and what is really trash.  They put recycle bins everywhere possible in town including the US post office, churches, Rose Hill Cemetery, and all businesses in order to collect as much recycle material as possible.

When they put a recycle bin at the cemetery, they also put a trash one too as a favor to the Rose Hill Cemetery Board.  The point was to at least get the kids who hang out there under cover of darkness to put their beer bottles in the recycling and other trash like McDonald's wrappers in the trash.    Signs are posted at the cemetery so the cops can roust them if they get too noisy or disruptive but that happens rarely.  The Cemetery lies at the far end of the town's green area called the Grove, so to the kids it is all one roaming ground, just with tombstones instead of trees.

Unfortunately, a few citizens have gotten up in arms because it appears the town is picking up trash for free for a "business."  They brought it up at a Council Meeting in passing and now have tried to put in a OPRA request (a NJ mechanism to get public documents) about it.  Of course, there are no public documents as it was a favor.  The trash bin is being pulled out in response.

Rose Hill Cemetery is not really a business but more like a church.  It is a non-profit corporation under Federal laws and an exempt entity under NJ laws, meaning it pays no income, property, or sales taxes.  Its Board and officers are comprised of volunteers who receive no pay.  Once a year, financial reports are filed with the NJ Board that governs cemeteries operating in the state.  Money is set aside for each burial and memorial stone in a special fund that the state would use if the Cemetery went bankrupt to get grass mowed and other upkeep.

The rest of the funds received at the "sale" of a lot or for a internment are used to pay a lawn service to mow  biweekly in the summer and rake in the fall, and for unforeseen events like trees falling down in storms.  Occasionally funds have to cover plowing snow for a funeral to take place.  Casket burials require a concrete vault be put in place and the funds for an internment cover that cost from a vault company.  All in all, the cemetery breaks about even each year with the lawn care and insurance costs its biggest expenditure. 

Note that there is no cemetery attendant who is paid to take care of the cemetery day to day or make sales.  The lanes are not paved with macadam but stone and graves are cleaned up of excess flowers once a year after Christmas.  This extra "trash" is put in a dumpster arranged for that chore and paid for by the Cemetery Association.  The trash bin put there by the town was not to be used for that chore but as a convenience for visitors who might have a little trash like the wrapping the flowers came in.  In the past, visitors have hauled away their own debris and now they will do it again.

The volunteers who make up the Cemetery Board and its officers consider it a community service not a business.  I am sorry there are people in town who see it the opposite way.  Rose Hill Cemetery has been there since the 1860's; when people first settled around the train depot and called it Newfield.  To think of it as one of those big "retail" cemeteries just seems wrong. 

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