By Josh Resnek
After a great deal of strident debate, the city council rejected an effort to create a five member paid cemetery commission by a 9-0 vote.
Erin Deveney, the mayor’s chief of staff explained the options of either paying new cemetery commission members or having them serve with no stipend.
The cemetery commission was being considered to transfer from the city’s Department of Public Works the responsibility for managing 300 new burial plots in Glenwood Cemetery.
Councilor Stephanie Smith was against the measure to create a new commission. She questioned Deveney about it.
She wondered if the commission will have a separate budget or will derive its funding from the DPW?
Smith also asked about money that will be used to upkeep the cemetery and whether or not the money in the perpetual fund will be removed to sustain those expenses or will a new budget item be created with funding to sustain the new cemetery entity?
How new cemetery commissioners are assigned was another question Smith explored.
She said she wanted the five new commissioners to be appointed in a staggered style instead of all commission members being appointed for five year terms at the same time.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky favored paying the commissioners.
“I’m in favor of this commission,” Matewsky said.
Councilor Al Lattanzi was opposed to this.
Lattanzi asked if five members were necessary.
He said he didn’t feel the new commissioners should be paid. “I’ve been on many commissions throughout my public life. I’ve never been paid for any of them,” he said.
Councilor Darren Costa said he favored a commission but he wanted to make certain all members have Everett residency. President Mike Marchese asked about where the funds go when plots are sold.
Deveney couldn’t answer how much they’d sell for or how much is in an account from former sales, if any.
She said she’d look into it.
The creation of the commission would require a revised ordinance.
Before the closure of the public hearing, resident John Puopolo, who was not in favor of the petition, spoke before the council.
“What is broke? What are we trying to fix? I’d like to know. When we had thousands of burial plots we didn’t have a five per- son commission. What has changed? What are we trying to fix? Why are we trying to spend more taxpayer money? What’s the rationale to add five stipend jobs to run a cemetery that’s been running successfully for 65 years? This makes no sense. It is financially irresponsible. Where does the money come from with more paid no show stipend jobs?” Puopolo asked.
He derided other commission members who do not attend commission meetings but get paid.
“There is no need to add five paid no show jobs,” he said. John McDonald spoke on the measure.
“I am not in favor of this cemetery commission by any measure. I question why we need it. Thousands have been buried without a commission. What requires five people to handle 300 new plots? For 300 possible plots we need five people to handle this?” he repeated.
“There doesn’t seem to be any logic behind this.”
Paula Sterite spoke briefly. She said there are only 300 plots. “People die and have gotten buried there. You talk about stipends. The library board was unpaid. When it became paid, people didn’t show up. She claimed membership is all about relatives being appointed to commissions.
Councilor John Hanlon said he is opposed to the whole thing. He did not mince his words.
“The commission isn’t really going to do anything. This is a waste of time,” he said.
“We don’t need five commissioners to do nothing.”
A motion for favorable action on the order to accept the cemetery commission proposal failed unanimously with a 9-0 vote.