Cranston councilors look to hold private cemeteries accountable for upkeep

West Bay

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — An ordinance that would hold the owners of private cemeteries accountable for the maintenance of their grounds is heading to the Cranston City Council for a vote.

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Councilwoman Lammis Vargas and Council President Chris Paplauskas, calls for cemeteries to keep a record of the disposition of human remains and provide the city with an annual filing of the cemeteries’ financial condition and status to prevent grounds from becoming blighted and negligent.

The city’s ordinance committee voted unanimously Thursday to send it to the full city council after hearing from several residents on the matter.

Vargas said the city’s private cemeteries need more oversight, suggesting cemetery owners file an annual report that details the number of plots available and their expenses to determine “whether or not they’re going to be meeting the budget the cemetery needs to operate.”

“I think the filings of at least those two items, for the time being, will allow us to take grasp and make sure that we work with the private owners in hopes that we don’t all drive by cemeteries and see the grass 6 feet high,” she said.

Vargas represents Ward 1, where one cemetery has been drawing ire for its lack of maintenance.

Oakland Cemetery on Broad Street has fallen into disarray in recent years, and Vargas said it’s an example of what could happen to other cemeteries of action isn’t taken now.

“It’s like a dump, I’m sorry to say,” said Vivian Medina of Providence. “It’s been like a dump for quite a bit and it’s sad to see it.”

Medina has six relatives buried at Oakland Cemetery. She said she’s been fighting for the last 14 years to get it cleaned up. She was in attendance at Thursday’s meeting to share her concerns with the committee.

She said if she could afford to, she’d relocate her loved ones’ remains.

“This has been going on for years and years,” Medina said. “Believe me, I don’t want to keep them there. Nobody needs to be buried like that.”

12 News reported in June that the cemetery was littered with trash and debris, some of which was completely covering gravestones. The city cleaned up the trash after hearing her complaint.

The city council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance on Oct. 25. If passed, it will have authority over all current and future private cemeteries.

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