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Changes outlined for cemetery management

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — City officials would like to see the city’s cemetery division become a self-sustaining entity by providing better services to its customers. Parks and Recreation Director Gary Wardle, along with Justin Whatley of Cemetery Planning and Resource Alliance Studio, presented council with a proposed management plan during its Feb. 25 study session. 

 

In order to create the management plan, CPRA Studio staff interviewed cemetery employees and learned what they did on a day-to-day basis. 

“So the current sales process... the phone rings, you take an order and you try to help the family out as best as possible. That doesn’t cut it when trying to generate an enterprise, a business, as self-sustaining business,” he said, adding that the city doesn’t offer any pre-need sales which “would help bolster revenues.”

Whatley also said the cemeteries would benefit from diversifying their inventory because they currently offer next-in-line burials which means the next plot of land available is the only plot available for purchase. 

“The diversification of your inventory is going to be one of the key drivers in bolstering your revenue streams because that is the one thing you have to sell is real estate inside the cemetery and how you maximize every square inch of that cemetery is how we’re going to generate bigger revenues,” he said. 

Because the cemetery is seeing a higher percentage of cremations each year, Whatley said implementing a cremation garden would provide an experience for customers. He said a family would be able to gather and spend time at the cremation garden and not have to feel burdened that it’s at a cemetery. 

“If we start planning tomorrow — for cremation gardens, for people to hold services inside these cemeteries — it would take 12 months from design to ribbon cutting to get these cremation gardens in place,” he said. 

According to Whatley, the city could use interest generated from its perpetual care fund to develop its cremation gardens and that the money would be paid back at a higher interest rate by creating an addition stream of revenue. 

Whatley said the cemetery currently has three staff which can be a good thing with the right people. The city recently hired  Aaron Corr as the Cemetery Manager, who previously worked at a private cemetery in Loveland and who has marketing experience. 

“With Aaron filling the current position there won’t be a need for new positions,” Whatley said. “He’s going to be tasked with the community outreach programs, the advertising and marketing campaigns and utilizing his knowledge — his vast knowledge of the industry — to reach out to folks in the community.”

Additional improvements Whatley suggested included:

• Making sure the city has a website for the cemetery and that its easy to find;

• Ensuring that the website is available on a mobile platform;

• Launching email campaigns;

• Cross-training Parks and Recreation staff so they can fill in when cemetery staff have time-off or are on vacation

Council was set to consider approving the management plan during its March 4 council meeting, after press deadline.