by Elizabeth Dow, Community Journalist
HARDWICK – At its regular meeting on February 16, the Hardwick Select Board approved a set of policies for managing the cemeteries it oversees.
Under state law, if a cemetery’s governing body disbands, the town’s select board becomes that cemetery’s governing board by default. Vermont law establishes the framework within which cemeteries must operate, but it grants cemetery commissions the power to set specific policies and procedures for their own cemeteries.
The select board serves as the Cemetery Commission for the Hardwick Center, Hardwick Street, Sanborn, and West Hill cemeteries, now called the Town Cemeteries. The three other cemeteries in town, Fairview Cemetery, Main Street Cemetery, and Maple Street Cemetery, have their own cemetery commissions with their own rules.
The select board wants to provide a well-maintained setting for the internment and commemoration of the dead and for the comfort and inspiration of the bereaved and the general public. The newly-adopted policies strive to accommodate the desires of families and individuals and to provide compassionate and efficient service in a manner that respects human dignity.
The town has hired Kirkland Services, of Cabot, to serve as the newly-created position of town sexton. Kirkland Services will handle the day-to-day management and maintenance of the cemeteries and their use. The town will pay the town sexton through the fees charged for the services the sexton provides. The town sexton, town clerk, and town manager will share responsibility for the records of the cemetery.
The town sexton will maintain the cemetery’s corner posts, lawns, plantings, access roads, and fences of town cemeteries, but the town will not maintain, repair, or replace any memorial or foundation in any lot.
Individuals may acquire up to two full lots for family needs. A full lot holds four graves for un-cremated remains, eight cremains, or a mixture of both. The town sexton oversees the laying out and marking of lots within town cemeteries, with each lot having granite corner markers which indicate the lot number and the last initial of the owner of the lot. The town sexton will work with families to arrange for burials. The town sexton will also mark out the lot for the grave digger and the memorial installers.
Hardwick allows three types of burials: traditional burials, natural burials, and cremated remains (cremains) burials. Traditional burials require that all embalmed remains have a vault designed in accordance with industry standards and specifications. Cremains must be buried, not scattered, but the family decides whether or not to use an urn or a box. Any joint replacement hardware, pins, plates, screws, pacemakers, gold or amalgam dental fillings found among cremains gets recycled. For that reason, the town suggests that bodies which contain any of those materials be cremated instead of being buried in the traditional manner or in a natural burial.
Natural burial refer to placing an un-embalmed body in the ground, wrapped in a shroud or placed in a casket that will decompose. Hardwick allows natural burials in all lots in all town cemeteries, and all policies apply to them. In addition, the town has specific requirements about how a natural burial must take place and includes them in detail in the policies. Hardwick does not have a temporary receiving vault, so it allows burials in the winter.
The policies require grave markers made of granite, marble, fieldstone, or bronze and spells out in detail how the town wants them placed. The town sexton oversees all opening and closing of graves and the process for marking graves.
The policies also establish rules for how lot owners may decorate and maintain their lots and the behavior the town expects of visitors in its cemeteries. In time, a full set of policies and forms will be posted on the Hardwick town website.
Burial lots in one of the town cemeteries may be purchased by calling the town manager’s office at (802) 472-6120 or in-person at the office during regular business hours.