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July 1, 2015     Feather River Bulletin
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July 1, 2015
 

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411 Wednesday, July 1, 2015 Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Editor's note: This is the last in a series of midterm reports submitted by the2014-15 Plumas County Civil Grand Jury. SUMMARY These Cemeteries are not generally a subject for dally discussion. However, many of us have already had those conversations, and most will eventually have to' become aware of their local cemetery facility. Plumas County has more than 40 cemeteries, although the County is responsible for only 14, which are grouped into nine special districts. These districts are under the limited governance of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors. Pursuant to Penal Code 925-933.6, special districts are subject to investigation by the Plumas County Civil Grand Jury. The 2014-15 Grand Jury found that it had been more than a decade since a Plumas County Grand Jury had looked at the operations and conditions of the Plumas County cemetery districts. One problem that brought this subject to this Grand Jury was the fact that, in several districts, burials are not performed during some winter months due to weather conditions and ground water levels. Delayed burial subjects bereaved families to additional emotional and financial costs. Special districts are formed through LAFCo (Local Agency Formation Commission) who establishes the boundary and service area of a district. By State law, LAFCo performs systematic Municipal Service Review of these districts on a rotating basis, insuring that each one is thoroughly investfgated every five years. These reviews can be found on the LAFCo website, and contain information about the general operations, ......... financialstates, and~ : '~ governing boards, as well as information that Will be helpful to families during times of need. The existence of such pertinent information about each cemetery district changed the direction of the Grand Jury investigation. The nuts and bolts information about operations and such has already been researched and documented. However, some of our preliminary interviews had revealed some broader problems that are common among the districts. Cemetery districts are intended to be non-profit as well as self-sustaining. Sales of burial plots, charges for various burial services, and a small portion of county tax revenue are the income sources. The recession and resulting drop in property values caused a decrease in income from taxes. In addition, as the number of cremations increases, there is a resulting decrease in the number of full burials, which are a vital source of income. And families of the interred have, in good faith, paid for on-going maintenance with the burial fees, which are placed in endowment funds for each district. During the inquiries, the Grand Jury discovered that cemetery districts share a problem with many other special districts. Cemetery districts are independent districts, with appointed boards whose directors serve fixed terms. These boards of directors are composed of volunteers appointed by the Board of Supervisors. It is often very difficult to find enough qualified citizens Willing to serve on these very valuable and legally required boards. As a result, several boards ha e,h onEcduced. from five to three members. Within Plumas County there are consolidated cemetery districts, whereby individual districts combine and become governed by the same board. The advantages of consolidation allow for multiple districts having shared maintenance and operations. The Grand Jury found that it could be advantageous to the future solvency of smaller districts to consider consolidation as a means of maintaining the quality of service to the citizens of Plumas County. In addition to more efficient use of funds and manpower, such consolidated districts would require fewer volunteers to fill the chairs on the various required citizen governing boards. The 2014-15 Plumas County Grand Jury found a lack of user-friendly access to information regarding the various cemetery districts. It is problematic that there is no information on Plumas County website. In addition, not all districts have readily accessible written policy, procedure and operations manuals. In many cemeteries, it can be difficult to locate individual graves. And all the districts are experiencing economic difficulties. The Grand Jury recommends each cemetery district should create a uniform method of communicating information about their operations and services offered to the public. Their written manuals should be on-site and accessible. The Board of Supervisors should make certain that all the pertinent information for the cemetery districts is available on the County's website. Districts need to create and maintain records of the location of all burial within their facilities. Some individual districts should consider possible consolidation with the view to make better use of resources. And ffmally, the families of the deceased need a clear explanation of any delay of burials for any reasons. BACKGROUND Plumas County has over 40 documented burial grounds ~and almost 200 burial' sites; with many undocumented sites scattered throughout the forests. Fourteen of these cemeteries, which are segregated into nine districts, are under the limited jurisdiction of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors. __2c'xx__ PLUMAS RURAL SERVICES Serving People, Strengthening Families, Building Communities 2ct ec15 llam ta 12.'30 pm l)he : 3' ma Sewic - 711 & Main St. PAl ,fiat mate p ea e YJeth at Staeie 283-5675 Sponsored by Plumas Rural Services - Women "s Group plumasruralservices, org Districts are: Chester Cemetery District Crescent Mills Cemetery District Cromberg Cemetery District Greenville Cemetery District Meadow Valley Cemetery District Mohawk Valley Cemetery District Portola Cemetery District Quincy / La Porte Cemetery District Taylorsville Cemetery District Each district is governed by a board, with each district determining the number of board members. Board members are appointed by the supervisor from their respective district and approved by the entire Board of Supervisors. Board members are uncompensated, and appointees can only be removed mid-term by their fellow board members. The term for each cemetery board member coincides with the term of office of the appointing supervisor, but can be (and often are) reappointed. Many board members have served for multiple terms. The 2014-15 Civil Grand Jury found that the cemetery districts had not been examined by any grand jury for a number of years. The vital nature of their services led the jury to review the overall management, general operations, and governance of the districts in an effort to determine if access to said services were understandable and readily available to the general public. METHODOLOGY Grand Jury members searched the County website for relevant information. They also attended meetings of some the district boards, and made site visits to ' x, ari0uS Cemeteries, The j~ry also interviewed cemetery district board members, district employees, other county officials who deal with special districts, and some current County Supervisors. Additional interviews included friends and families of the deceased, hospice counselors, and funeral service provider employees. We examined district documents pertaining to the fees, policies, procedures, and employee relations. We familiarized ourselves with the applicable portions of the California Penal Code. Some of the Grand Jury's concerns and examples of questions for the interviews were: What are the services offered at each cemetery? How are offered services established at each site? Who do you contact to make burial arrangements? What is working right at the cemeteries? Do we have enough space set aside for the future? Are there adequate funds to continue cemetery care? How can visitors find graves of their loved ones? Were the voiced complaints valid? What improvements might be made at each cemetery? DISCUSSION Cemetery districts are intended to be non-profit as well as self-sustaining. Health and Safety Code Section 8738, the Public Cemetery District Law, is the primary act that outlines the protocol for sales of burial plots, charges for various services, and includes the required minimum endowment fees, which provide the basis for future care of the cemetery. Some districts also receive a small portion of County tax revenue. This act authorizes the districts to own, operate, improve, and maintain cemeteries, provide interment series within its boundaries, and to sell interment accessories and replacement objects (e.g. burial vaults, liners, and flower vases.) It is this act that also requires the district to maintain cemeteries owned by the district. The recession and resulting drop in property values caused a decrease in income from taxes. In addition, as the number of cremations increases, there is a resulting decrease in the number of full burials, which are a vital source of income. A portion Of buriaI fees; l~id by the families of the interred, is placed in the endowment fund for each district. State law requires each district to charge endowment fees in addition to the other costs for burial plots and services. The endowment fees must be safely invested in an established endowment fund, which is held until such time as the district ceases to accept any more interments. The fund is then to be used to maintain the cemetery grounds. The Grand Jury found that Topsoil & Manure .... 12 yards, delivered* $350 Manure Only ........... 12 yards, delivered* $350 - Screened and Processed - SAND & GRAVEL AVAILABLE (530) *Susanville area, call for outlying areas. in many cases, these endowment funds are no longer keeping pace with the physical needs of the districts, and are indeed being depleted. Future population growth cannot be accurately predicted, but Plumas County has experienced a decline in population for the past several years. This will have an impact on the revenue for the districts. Another income reduction has been the trend away from the more costly full body burials and toward cremations, which is now about 60/40 ratio. The positive side of this change is that the districts will most likely have enough room for the needs of the communities for several decades. The Grand Jury found there is a general lack of public information available for many of the cemetery districts that are under the jurisdiction of Plumas County. There is no easily accessed, uniform system of locating information about the districts. A perusal of two local phone books shows no districts listed in the government sections; some, but not all, districts listed in the white pages; some, but not all listed in the yellow pages. Only one district, the Chester Cemetery District (which includes the Prattvllle Cemetery) has a website that includes the name of each interment, whether it is a full burial or ashes, military status, history of the cemetery, special sections for Catholics and Masons, board meeting information, and contact information including physical address, mailing address, and phone number. Similar information was sought on the other districts from several County offices, and attempts were made to find it on the County website. Although the County has jurisdiction over the .... districts/It hasno centi~l,: information hub to provide contact information for the general public. The Planning Department does not hold or maintain data or records pertaining to cemeteries. The County Clerk's office provided a list of the districts and contact information for the various boards. LAFCo determines the boundary and service area for special districts which is defined as the district's Sphere of Influence. By State law, LAFCo is required to prepare a comprehensive study, a Municipal Service Review, for each district every five years, and posts the findings and all relevant information about the districts on its website. This provides a great deal of pertinent information for the public, but the website is not well known, and can be difficult to navigate. It would be beneficial to the general public and especially to bereaved families to be able to find basic general information for all the cemetery districts on the See Cemetery, page 5B The GREENVILLE CEMETERY DISTRICT has issued a REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS FOR SERVICES of a REGISTERED PROFESSIONAL FORESTER for a Fuel Hazard Reduction Project - Development and Implementation June 18, 2015 The Greenville Cemetery District is seeking the services of a Registered Professional Forester, licensed inthe State of California. The Forester will design, develop prescriptions, monitor, complete CEQA and Timber Harvest Permits or Exemptions, if necessary. The project site is located east of the existing Greenville Cemetery. The area of the project site is approximately 30 acres. For a complete description of work by phases, refer to the complete Request for Proposal (RFP) document. The RFP document is located on the intemet at: http://www.countyofplumas.corn/DocumentCenter/View/12987 The complete RFP is also available by sending an e-mail to: Jim Hamblin, Chair, Governing Board, Greenville Cemetery District chiefhamblin@hotmail.com i i