Ridgebury Cemetery takeover goes to town meeting Oct. 11

Do Ridgefielders want another cemetery, with 700 graves dating back to before the American Revolution and 100 plots still available to residents seeking an address for eternal residence?

A proposal for the town to assume ownership of Ridgebury Cemetery will be presented to voters next week, at a town meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

“No cost to the taxpayer,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi told a Sept. 27 public hearing.

“I doubt it will for many, many years,” Marconi said of potential cost. “We’ll be gone — maybe we’ll be up there.”

The upkeep of the cemetery is not expected to burden taxpayers because the three-acre property comes with an endowment of over $300,000 that generates interest that exceeds expenses. Documents show interest of about $13,000 in 2015, with expenditures totaling $7,800.

And the plan is to not touch the endowment, which would be unavailable to the town for purposes other than the cemetery.

“Basically, we’re not going to spend any of the money,” Marconi said.

Neighbors and sextons

The three-acre property would be under the general oversight of the Graveyard Restoration Committee, which handles general upkeep — mowing, mainly — of the Mapleshade, Olde Town and New Florida cemeteries.

There are some 15 cemeteries in town, many of them small “pocket cemeteries” cared for by neighbors.

Hannah Barber, sexton of Ridgebury Cemetery, would continue to handle most of the work there.

“We own property right behind the cemetery,” Kitsey Snow said, and “people are throwing old urns and plants” onto nearby land.

“We’ll look into that,” Barber promised.

Money talks

Plots in the cemetery go for $2,100 and, it came out at the hearing, generally hold one “full burial” and two containers of cremated remains or ashes — a standard that also applies in other cemeteries, hearing speakers reported.

Ed Tyrrell asked the hearing how many Connecticut towns owned cemeteries. No one knew the answer.

Josette Williams, a member of the Ridgebury Cemetery Association board, suggested that the town recognize Robert Keeler Reynolds, who’d headed the board of directors and been chief overseer of Ridgebury Cemetery for decades  — and whose family had managed it even longer.

“Somewhere along here I think the town should officially thank Bob Reynolds. His family has taken care of the cemetery,” Williams said. “They’ve been taking care of it without charge.”