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Members sought for new Cemetery Committee

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KENT—Following a unanimous town meeting vote Feb. 27 to approve an ordinance establishing a new cemetery ordinance, the selectmen are looking for persons who might be willing to serve on a cemetery committee and for a paid sexton to oversee the town’s six cemeteries.

The committee will consist of five members and two alternates. Anyone interested in serving should email a letter of interest by March 15 to Administrative Assistant Joyce Kearns at adminassist@townofkentct.org.

The sexton’s position is part-time and carries an annual salary of $28,000. Those interested in applying should submit a cover letter, resume and application to Kearns by March 15, at 4 p.m. A job description can be found here

At a meeting Feb. 28, the selectmen discussed the committee and establishing a budget for the new department. Administrative Assistant Joyce Kearns said that because it is a new entity, the committee’s budget must go through the Board of Finance.

Additional costs to be added to the town’s budget were a point of concern during the town meeting. The cemeteries have been administered and maintained for about a century by the Kent Cemetery Association, which wanted to disband. The selectmen have been meeting for months with association members to create an ordinance and to plan for the transfer of the association’s funds—an approximately $178,000 endowment that will be kept in a non-lapsing fund for major expenses.

Burial fees will offset operational expenses, but historically those fees have not completely paid for basic maintenance such as mowing and trimming. The town has for many years granted the association money to help with this, $47,000 in the 2023-24 budget. To that will be added $28,000 for the sexton and other associated expenses, 

Residents at the meeting queried about details of the cemeteries’ operation and First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer said it will be up to the committee to decide its bylaws and regulations. The ordinance says the town “shall” have a sexton, removing any discretion about the position, but there is as yet no definition for the job. “We tried to keep the ordinance to an organizational level with management going to the committee and the first selectman,” said Lindenmayer. 

Sarah Chase wondered who will receive the funds for burials at St. Andrew’s and the Congregational cemeteries. She was told that the cemeteries are proximate to the churches, but the property does not belong to them. They are among the six active cemeteries, all owned by the town. 

Town officials stressed that they conferred extensively with the cemetery association to learn what its processes are and the implications for the town in assuming responsibility. “We did not do this on our own,” said Selectman Lynn Mellis Worthington.

Selectman Glenn Sanchez expressed the town’s gratitude to current sexton, Bill Potter, who has overseen the cemeteries for more than a quarter of a century with his wife, Tammy. 

“I’ve learned a lot from them and to know how much time and effort and work goes into all this–it’s a big deal,” he said. “There is a lot of thinking still to do, but we need to get this done.”

“I always say we represent the silent majority,” quipped Potter, eliciting a laugh from the audience.

Kathryn Boughton
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