WOBURN - After being informed by a members of the Cemetery Commission that Woodbrook Cemetery will not run out of burial space for another 20-25 years, the City Council's Finance Committee this week endorsed a transfer of $950,000 that will be used to fund road repairs at the cemetery.
The FinCom backed the internal transfer, 3-2, with Alderman at-large Richard Haggerty and Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately opposed. The full council is expected to vote on the transfer when it meets next Tuesday (7 p.m.) at City Hall.
After discussion at its June 4 meeting, the council sent the transfer back to committee, when some members - under the assumption Woodbrook would run out of space in 5-7 years - said the $950,000 could be better spent on land for a new cemetery.
At this week's FinCom session, Cemetery Commission members John Sawyer and William Kerns presented data that indicates that with more people choosing cremation over burial these days, it will be 20-25 years "before we're in a drastic need of space" at Woodbrook.
"We feel (the roads) are the most pressing need before our board," said Sawyer, who added there are potential liability issues if the roads are not repaired. "It's not just people coming to visit the cemetery, but our own workers, as well."
Haggerty said he preferred the roads to be repaired on a piecemeal basis, addressing the worst ones first, and suggested scaling back the transfer to $350,000, an idea with which Gately agreed.
"I don't think a 1-shot deal is the answer," said Gately.
Other council members suggested, however, that fixing the roads all AT once would be more cost-effective, and said that if the Cemetery Commission has determined the best use of the money in its account is for road repairs, then the council ought to support that decision.
"We have an independent board that has determined this is the way to go," said Ward 4 Alderman Michael Anderson.
"I feel comfortable with the transfer," agreed Ward 3 Alderman Mark Gaffney. "This 1-time paving of the roads will last as long as the cemetery (is still selling lots)."
There is currently about $1.3 million in the account. Sawyer noted the "fund is still going to be replenished (with about) $45,000-$50,000 per year" from lot sales.
Ward 7 Alderman Raymond Drapeau and Haggerty had a brief exchange toward the end of the debate. At last week's regular meeting, Drapeau - who supported the transfer - urged his colleagues to not micromanage the Cemetery Commission's affairs.
"I'm not trying to be critical," responded Haggerty. "We're discussing a nearly $1 million appropriation. When we took the original vote to send it back to committee, it's because I wanted to make an informed decision. I disagree with it, but you made a $1 million decision without having a single piece of paper in front of you."