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Cemetery buries troubles

State may give OK soon to again sell plots

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Cemetery buries troubles

Evelyn Prouty, right, leads a tour of the East Union Cemetery.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED March 31, 2010 2:55 a.m.
There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for the East Union Cemetery after nearly two years of constant problems and difficult negotiations with the California State Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to get back its business license as well as its frozen bank accounts and endowment funds.

All bills are current, a new endowment fund has been opened, and the cemetery could have its business license reinstated by this summer.

At the cemetery association’s annual general membership meeting Tuesday, Leon Sucht announced that “all bills are paid” and that there is today “a little over $10,000” in the association’s endowment fund. That endowment is not the same as the one seized by the state – whose sum none of the current board members know – but is the amount that came from the 48 burials that have taken place at the cemetery since the problems began in June 2008.

Even though the state suspended the cemetery’s license which prevented any sale of new plots, burials were allowed under the law for those who have already purchased plots there. Some of those purchases were paid in full – which included the plot, the vault, and endowment fund which is money to continue the cemetery’s upkeep in perpetuity – but others did not pay the whole amount including the money for endowment, which became the seed for the $10,000 endowment fund today that was reported by Sucht.

There was one, for example, who bought a plot and paid in full for $350 which was the going rate in the 1960s when the purchase was made. In today’s prices, that would be equivalent to about $2,500.

“So we lost money on that one. We’ve had two or three of that,” said Evelyn Prouty who, with husband Bill Good and a few volunteers, dug the 48 graves and did everything else required of a funeral at the cemetery.

Some of the plot purchases did not include an endowment, which today is a minimum of $250 under state requirement, she said. “And that’s how we got the money in the endowment,” she added.

Sucht also said that the cemetery board has paid off the $5,000 owed to the accountants, as well as the federal and state taxes for the salaries of the two cemetery undertakers who were laid off after the state froze the cemetery’s account and suspended its business license. Those taxes were taken out of the cemetery account by the former secretary and treasurer of the cemetery board but did not pay the federal government or the state. Sucht also reported that PG&E and phone bills are paid. The cemetery does not pay such utilities as sewer and water because it has its own well and septic tank.

Sucht is actually the treasurer for the Friends of the East Union Cemetery but is volunteering as the treasurer of the cemetery board on the interim. The Friends auxiliary group was formed after the troubles began for the cemetery in mid-2008.

The board is currently in the process of forming a three-member board to oversee the endowment fund. One member of the cemetery board can be apointed but no more than that. The board, headed by president Good, would also like to see a “younger” member of the community who has a finance background to be a member of the endowment board so that money can be invested wisely. The cemetery board selects the members of the endowment board. While a member of the board can be seated, the president is the exception.

As for the exact date when the cemetery could expect to have its business license reinstated, “Realistically, we’re shooting for the summer,” Good said.

After the cemetery’s assets were frozen and its business license suspended, the state Cemetery and Funeral Board gave the new cemetery board a laundry list of requirements that needed to be met before they can start selling plots again. Good said the board is just about done with all of those requirements.
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