Tallmadge -- After years of city officials talking about dwindling space for new burial plots at Tallmadge Cemetery, Mayor Dave Kline is working on a plan for the future of the city's only cemetery.
Kline has created a working committee to research options, including building vault-like structures for cremated remains in the original section of the cemetery, that will allow the city to make the best use of the remaining land while planning for the future by possibly expanding the cemetery.
The 12-acre cemetery, located south of the Circle between South and Southwest avenues, is the final resting place of those who passed away as early as the 1800s. Comprising a "new" and an "old" section, Kline said the cemetery is fairly large when compared to other nearby municipal cemeteries, but small when measured against several private ones.
Every year, about 60 to 70 burial plots, are purchased. As of last month, only a few hundred plots were left, according to Judy Looman of the city's Planning and Zoning Department.
"We don't have a whole lot of land left," said Kline. "It's probably 90 percent spoken for."
Kline has charged the committee with finding solutions for the space problem by the end of May so that funds to start the project may be added to the operating budget for 2014.
If City Council ultimately decides to fund the project, the first phase would begin next spring with crematory niches for sale about a month later, Kline said.
"I do believe that in the future cremations will become more prevalent because of [lack of] space," he said.
The committee will consist of Looman, Public Service Director Bryan Esler, who oversees the cemetery and Councilman Jim Donovan of Donovan Funeral Home, which is located next to the cemetery.
One of the options Kline is requesting the committee look into is columbaria, vault-like structures with niches for cremated remains. The structures come in different styles, including octagons and long walls.
Kline said the project may be done in phases over five to 10 years, as money in each year's budget allows. He said the structures may be built in accordance with demand for the niches.
The price of each structure depends on the style, number of niches and materials used. One granite, octagonal design with 72 niches can cost between $20,000 and $100,000, Kline said.
Likewise, the number and configuration of columbaria that could be installed determines the volume of remains that can be accommodated. Options include a few long walls with niches on both sides or a several octagonal structures connected by a pathway. The area could be park-like with benches for visitors.
Because building these structures won't solve the cemetery's space problem for the long-term, Kline said the committee also will research how to the cemetery could be expanded. He said in order to accommodate more grave plots with headstones, the city would have to acquire neighboring properties or others throughout the city as they are put up for sale or convert land from a city park.