Tarpon cemetery rates may rise
By KATHERINE GAZELLA
TARPON SPRINGS -- City officials are considering raising rates at the nearly full Cycadia Cemetery, as well as expanding to the north and selling burial plots only to residents and their immediate families.
With only about 220 burial spaces available for purchase at the city-run cemetery, city officials say they have to act quickly and decide whether the city should buy an additional 1.2 acres to keep the cemetery from selling out. They would have to make the decision in time to put the issue to voters in the March election.
During a work session Tuesday night, commissioners were divided about whether the city should expand.
"Do we want to remain in the cemetery business?" Commissioner Cindy Sanner asked her colleagues.
"I think it would be a downright shame if (residents) couldn't be buried in the town they grew up in," Commissioner Beverley Billiris said.
Commissioners will decide at meetings in December and January whether to raise rates for burial from $450 to $1,200 and whether to only allow residents and their immediate families to be buried there. They also will decide whether to expand and how to finance the cemetery in the future, especially if there is no money coming in from the sales of burial plots.
Commissioner Karen Brayboy said she was against a proposal to use money from the city's sidewalk fund to pay for care of the cemetery, which some commissioners had suggested at an earlier meeting. That would just cause a shortfall in the sidewalk fund, she said.
"It seems we're just playing a shell game with the money," she said.
City staffers will bring other options back to the commission before the end of the year, including the possibility of using the interest from money in the city's reserves to pay for the care of Cycadia.
All the commissioners said the current prices at the cemetery are too low, especially compared with others in the area. Cycadia charges $450 for an in-ground plot, plus a $15 attendance fee. Curlew Hills in Palm Harbor charges from $995 to $1,595 for plots and $375 for attendance fees, and, according to city research, Parklawn in Palm Harbor charges $500 to $1,000 for plots and $730 for attendance fees.
The city of Largo's cemetery is the closest in price to Cycadia, with fees of $500 for plots and $35 for attendance fees.
"I think it's obvious that prices are too low," said Mayor Frank DiDonato.
To purchase the 1.2 acres north of the cemetery, the city would need $150,000 for the land purchase and $130,000 to prepare the site. That property would allow for 528 plots.
Commissioners did not seem inclined to support the purchase of 4 acres north of Rose Cemetery, which is across the street from Cycadia. That purchase and site preparation would cost about $500,000.
Regardless of whether the city buys additional property, it will have to maintain the cemetery and allow for burials of plots that were prepurchased.
The cemetery still has more than 500 mausoleum spaces, although only a couple dozen of those are sold each year.
-- Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or email@example.com.
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