Secretary of State Deb Markowitz sure knows how to celebrate Halloween.
Markowitz held a press conference at the Green Mount Cemetery in Montpelier Tuesday morning, one day before the spooky holiday, to highlight her office’s new handbook on the state’s burial and cemetery law.
But since some of the state’s media jumped on the story a day earlier (was Monday a slow news day?), I seemed to be the only person to attend the 11 a.m. press conference at the cemetery, located just outside of Montpelier’s business district.
The booklet highlights the important and the obscure state laws regarding everything cemeteries, including what paperwork is needed to bury a body and the proper management of private family burial plots.
Although it is not a sexy topic, management of cemeteries is becoming a big deal for some towns, Markowitz said. State law dictates that when a cemetery association dissolves, the land becomes town property and the municipality is now expected to pay for its upkeep.
"Some of these cemeteries are costly to repair," she said.
Patrick Healy, the director of the Green Mount Cemetery, began working at the there 21 years ago and the job seems to have stuck. But recently he has noticed a disturbing trend – many of the elderly volunteers that keep the grounds maintained are, as Healy put it, "becoming residents here."
"It’s always hard to find volunteers, not matter what field," he said. "But I think it is especially hard for cemeteries."
On a related note, Markowitz’s press release on Monday announcing the new handbook deserves some sort of award for the number of puns it has hidden in it. The document notes that the booklet "untangles the web" of laws surrounding cemetery regulations. Markowitz notes in the press release that the maintenance of cemeteries is a "grave concern."
Later she thanks the Vermont Cemetery Association for helping her "take a stab" at writing the booklet. She concludes, "It was a worthwhile undertaking." Copies of the book can be ordered by calling 802-828-2148 or by going to the secretary of state’s Web site at www.sec.state.vt.us/municipal/