By NIKKI YOUNK
QUINNESEC - The recent propane shortage has already caused home heating bills to skyrocket and local emergency managers to prepare warming shelters.
During their Monday meeting, members of the Breitung Township Board of Trustees discussed yet another, unforeseen consequence of the crisis - the rising cost of winter burials in the township's cemetery.
Township Superintendent Joe Rogina explained that it takes about 24 gallons of propane to thaw a grave. At the current price of $6 per gallon, the cost comes to $144.
Furthermore, he pointed out that township incurs additional expenses for snowplowing the area.
Rogina suggested that the township charge an additional $250 for all winter burials, effective immediately.
Several board members were skeptical.
"We've been burying people in the cemetery for about 100 years, and there's a winter every year," said Township Supervisor Denny Olson. "We've never penalized someone for dying in the winter before."
Rogina reminded the board that the township's general fund subsidizes the cemetery fund to the tune of about $80,000 per year. The cemetery fund's shortfall is due in part to fewer casket burials and more cremations, he said.
Charging the extra $250 would help recoup at least some of the cost, Rogina added.
Trustee Ben Peterson suggested that instead of penalizing winter burials, the township could raise all burial fees by $100.
Olson proposed that the issue be tabled, and that a committee get together to review and revise the cemetery's fee structure.
The board unanimously agreed with Olson.
In other business, the board:
- Purchased an inside cover advertisement in the 120th Upper Peninsula Volunteer Firefighters Tournament book at a cost of $750. This year's tournament, which runs from July 24 through 26, will be hosted by the Breitung Township Fire Department in Quinnesec.
- Approved to pay per diem rates to members of the township's board of review while they attend a Michigan Township Association training session in Escanaba on Wednesday. The board previously approved to cover registration and mileage for the event.
- Authorized Township Treasurer Carol Taylor to attend the Michigan Municipal Treasurers' Association 2014 Institute in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. The township will cover the cost of Taylor's registration, lodging, mileage, and bridge fees.
- Accepted the fire department's recommendation to hire Chris Lucas as a probationary firefighter for the Quinnesec station.
- Approved the township's revised personnel policies and procedures manual with a few changes in wording. Rogina noted that the manual has been a work in progress for several years and can be updated as necessary.
- Set a tentative date and time of March 4 at 7 p.m. to meet with a Municipal Employees' Retirement System (MERS) pension representative.
- Approved to add a second public comment period to the end of each regular meeting.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.