Penticton set for cost of dying increase

City council moves forward with plan to get local cemeteries' finances in order

If you truly want Penticton to be your place to stay forever, it’s going to set you back a little more.

The cost of being buried in Penticton is going up over the next few years as the city moves to upgrade and repair the city’s existing cemeteries while gradually increasing fees to move to a cost recovery model.

According to a Cemetery Services Master Plan prepared for the city by Lees+Associates, it will cost about $1.3 million to expand Lakeview Cemetery to handle future needs, as well as restoration work at Fairview Cemetery.

That’s on top of the current $190,000 subsidy for the cemeteries, which covers operations as well as debt financing and capital repayment for the $2.5 million columbarium and mausoleum added to Lakeview in 2008-09.

“At the present time, there is no more space left at Fairview Cemetery,” said Erik Lees.

“At Lakeview, there is approximately three years of room for the burial of cremated remains, only six years of capacity for traditional casket burial and lots of room left for entombment in the columbarium and mausoleum.”

While the columbarium has seen use, Lees noted there have been only two interments in the mausolea since they were built.

Lees recommended moving to a cost recovery model over the course of five years, rather than doing it in a single jump.

“If you would like to move to cost recovery in one year, we would be looking at approximately a 150 per cent increase in prices for in-ground burial and even more than that for cremation plots,” said Lees.

“The recommended option is to move to cost recovery in five years in 15 per cent increments. That would see you recover your cemetery operations and your interest costs.”

After that, fees would continue to increase to match inflation, but even so, Lees said fees would still be lower than Kelowna.

“We would continue to be in a competitive position for all of the primary areas of interment options that are presented,” said Lees, noting that all of his options showed a decrease in the mausolea pricing, which he said was set too high originally.

Council voted to endorse Lees’ report and directed staff to develop operational and capital work plans to implement the recommendations.

Beyond expanding Lakeview, Lees’ report concludes that both cemeteries are in need of care, especially Fairview, Penticton’s oldest cemetery, built in 1892.

“The cemetery needs a little TLC. The monuments have declined over time. The gates need repair if not replacement, the turf condition should be improved,” said Lees, noting that tree roots have begun shifting some of the monuments, which need to be restored.

“There is really no historic or interpretive educational signage of any sort,” said Lees.

“We think that should be updated to fully exploit the cultural significance and opportunity here.”

Even with the Lakeview expansion, Penticton will run out of cemetery room in 25 years. Beyond 2035, additional burial capacity will be required at another location.

Lees identified the city’s remaining property behind Munson Mountain, a 10-acre piece originally purchased for sports fields, as an ideal place for expansion.

Work there, he said, would have to begin five to seven years before Lakeview is expected to reach capacity.