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OFFICE OF CEMETERY OVERSIGHT

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OFFICE OF CEMETERY OVERSIGHT ...

    OFFICE OF CEMETERY OVERSIGHT

    ADVISORY COUNCIL ON CEMETERY OPERATIONS

    MINUTES

DATE: November 15, 2006

TIME: 10:15 a.m. 1:05 p.m.

PLACE: Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, 500 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore, ndMaryland 21202, 2 Floor Conference Room

PRESENT:

David Goodman, Chair

    George Piendak, Director

    Patricia Fagan Tress, Investigator

    Leila Whitley, Administrative Assistant

    Paulette Wirsching, Assistant Attorney General Richard Cody

    Susan Cohen

    Frank Markowski

    Frank Porter

    Sarah Rex

    Harriet Suskin

    Jack Tyrie

GUESTS PRESENT:

    Tinna Damaso, Department of Legislative Services

CALL TO ORDER:

    Chair Goodman called the meeting to order at 10:15 a.m.

MINUTES:

After several corrections were made to the Minutes, by motion made by Frank Porter and

    seconded by Frank Markowski, the Minutes to the October 26, 2006 meeting were accepted.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Chair Goodman reminded the Council that the next meeting will be held on Thursday, December

    14, 2006. At that meeting, the Council will discuss the refreshment schedule and sign up for the

    Mortician’s Board meetings for the upcoming year.

ABANDONED CEMETERIES:

    Chair Goodman announced that he would like the Office of Cemetery Oversight to draft a concept paper regarding abandoned cemeteries in part based upon points made by last month’s

    guest speakers. Chair Goodman’s suggestion includes creating a fund within the State

    government for volunteers to use for the restoration and maintenance of abandoned cemeteries. Mr. Goodman would like to try to help establish an organization in each county for inventorying cemeteries located in their respective counties. This county-by-county network of organizations would be a place for individuals to turn to if they encounter an abandoned cemetery. Chair Goodman suggested legislation be drafted for an additional dollar to be charged for the issuance of death certificates as a means to generate income for the State abandoned cemeteries gift giving fund.

    Director Piendak advised that an additional charge would not be a popular suggestion since the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issues death certificates, not the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Generally, one State agency does not like collecting fees for the use of another agency, nor is partial earmarking of new revenues always successful. Richard Cody stressed the need for a legal definition of “abandoned” cemetery. Questions concerning the timing of the proposal were discussed. Frank Porter stated he was concerned that the focus of the Advisory Council this session should be in getting the Sunset legislation passed. Chair Goodman does not feel that the proposed concept paper will have a bearing on the passing of the Sunset Bill. He sees the need to act on abandoned cemeteries as a high priority.

    Jack Tyrie recently spoke to Glenn Main, a Baltimore County volunteer who is currently working with other volunteers to inventory cemeteries in his county. Mr. Tyrie advised Mr. Main to contact Patricia Fagan Tress. Ms. Tress informed the Council that she has, in fact, spoken to Mr. Main and plans to meet with him in the future. Mr. Main is chairing a group of volunteers in Baltimore County for the sole purpose of identifying cemeteries in that county. thThe group meets on the 4 Sunday of every month, and Ms. Tress plans to attend at least one of their future meetings. Mr. Main has divided Baltimore County into 42 quadrants. Volunteers are then assigned a quadrant and asked to inventory all cemeteries in their quadrant. Mr. Main is working closely with the Baltimore County Genealogical Society and the Baltimore County Historical Society in this endeavor.

    Chair Goodman again stated that the only way the counties will become involved in the issue of abandoned cemeteries is if the State has a fund to give grants as incentive to each county. Chair Goodman would like to see every County Executive appoint members to a County Cemetery Oversight Committee. Frank Porter made a motion that the Director develop a concept paper regarding abandoned cemeteries in the State of Maryland. Jack Tyrie seconded the motion; the motion was passed unanimously.

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PRECONSTUCTION SALES OF MAUSOLEUMS:

    Director Piendak will survey his peers throughout the country and get a feel for the legislation their respective states have regarding preconstruction sales of mausoleums. Maryland Freestate is also working on a bill proposal for the current session of the General Assembly regarding this issue, and hopefully they will have information to share with us at our next monthly meeting.

MONUMENT POLICY:

    Jack Tyrie once again asked the Advisory Council to reconsider the elimination of the perpetual care fee charged by John Yeatman at his five Maryland cemeteries. Mr. Tyrie made a motion to eliminate the Perpetual Care fee of thirty five (.35) cent per square inch as proposed by John Yeatman & Co., Inc., Woodlawn, Lakeview, Evergreen, Bel Air and Harford Memorial Cemeteries and the immediate cessation of the collection of these said fees. Chair Goodman reminded everyone that they are members of an “Advisory” Council to the Office of Cemetery Oversight, and the Director is well within the law making decisions such as this one allowing additional perpetual care to be collected. Paulette Wirsching again stated that there is no maximum limitation for perpetual care fees.

    After receiving a letter from an outside monument dealer complaining that his customers had to go directly to the cemetery office to pay the perpetual care fee when he, the monument seller, was willing to collect it, Director Piendak sent a letter to the monument dealer with a copy to Mr. Yeatman stating that the monument dealers could either collect the fee on behalf of their customers or the customers could pay the cemetery directly. Reiterating the Director and the Council’s previous position, the cemeteries, however, could not require monument dealers to

    collect these fees.

Mr. Tyrie’s motion was seconded by Frank Porter. A vote was taken and Susan Cohen abstained;

    five members opposed Mr. Tyrie’s motion; Jack Tyrie was in favor of the motion; and Frank

    Porter was asked to be recorded as not voting.

MID-ATLANTIC CEMETERY AND FUNERAL ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE:

    George Piendak discussed the Mid-Atlantic Cemetery and Funeral Association Conference he recently attended in Atlantic City. Cemeterians, funeral directors, and monument dealers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland attended the three day conference. The President of the International Cemetery and Funeral Association announced the new name of his organization. The ICFA is now known as the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) to reflect the increase in cremations throughout the world. Individual states are considering adopting the name change also.

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    Director Piendak advised that several trends in the funeral industry were discussed at the conference. Funeral directors and cemeterians are now becoming event planners. Funerals are currently having themes to reflect the deceased’s life. Special hearses, caskets, and horse-drawn

    carriages are being used with greater frequency for funeral services. Director Piendak spoke about a husband and wife team who built a funeral home on their 400 acre cemetery to resemble a hotel. The larger rooms of the funeral home are often used for various celebratory services including weddings.

    One guest speaker spoke about one of two cemeteries that he owns which does not have enough money in its perpetual care fund. The cemetery is sold out and filled with no possibility of expansion. The cemetery owner has sponsored numerous fund raising events such as a gravediggers’ ball, dog walks, historic walking tours, and other events. Eleven passengers from

    the Titanic are interred in the cemetery which inspired the cemetery owner to sponsor a dinner that included the menu from the last meal served on the Titanic.

    Another guest speaker at the conference was the Vice President of Acquisitions for Stonemor, Inc. Stonemor is in the process of purchasing 21 of 24 SCI properties currently being sold. The spokesman talked about the criteria for making a logical cemetery and funeral acquisition. Director Piendak stated that the conference was an opportunity for networking and discovering the latest trends in the funeral industry.

DISASTER PLANNING:

    Chair Goodman designed a Disaster Planning Checklist as a result of the numerous discussions held on this subject at past meetings. The checklist is proposed to be utilized by cemetery owners for disaster preparedness. The checklist is designed for various categories of disasters which could occur to include natural disasters, pandemic flu outbreaks, flood, or acts of terrorism. Chair Goodman would like Council members to review the checklist for further discussion at future meetings.

    After final approval by the Advisory Council, Chair Goodman would like to have each cemetery fill out the form and submit it to the Office of Cemetery Oversight with applications for licensing renewals. The purpose of the form is to get cemeteries to look at their preparedness in case of a disaster.

DIRECTOR’S REPORT:

    Director Piendak advised that revenues and expenses of the Office look good for the first quarter of FY 2007 for the Office of Cemetery Oversight. The Office has received numerous invitations to attend candle light services, caroling, and various other holiday events in cemeteries throughout the State in the period between Halloween and the New Year.

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INVESTIGATOR’S REPORT:

    Patricia Tress reported that 15 complaints were received in October, 2006; 32 complaints have been received for the first quarter of FY 2007. The majority of complaints have dealt with employee service and performance of a contract which is a change from the last quarter of FY 2006. During the months of April, May, and June, the complaints are centered around maintenance and general appearance issues, often high grass, no grass and weeds.

ADJOURNMENT

    On motion of Frank Porter and seconded by Richard Cody, the Council voted unanimously to adjourn at 1:05 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 15, 2006 at 10:00 a.m.

Approved:

    ___ With corrections

    ___ Without corrections

_____________________________________ _______________________

    (Signature of Chairman) (Date)

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