Homestead Cemetery in Munhall on the verge of bankruptcy
May 30, 2015 12:00 AM
By Megan Henney / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Last-ditch efforts to raise money for Homestead Cemetery in Munhall might not be enough to save it from bankruptcy.
“We’re done at the end of June if something amazing doesn’t happen,” said board President Cathy Morrow.
The 34-acre cemetery, which dates back to 1886, has been operating on limited funds for several years, Ms. Morrow said. For example, one superintendent — aided sometimes by friends or a part-time worker — has been responsible for taking care of the entire cemetery.
But it’s not a problem unique to Homestead Cemetery.
Kathleen Ryan, an attorney for Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association, said because of the increase in people choosing cremation, incomes for cemeteries are slowing down. Although people who are cremated may wish to be buried in a cemetery, many choose to do otherwise.
“Cemeteries aren’t doing the burials that they once did,” she said.
The Homestead Cemetery relies solely on burials for its income. Since the start of the year, it has completed four, Ms. Morrow said.
Now, the Homestead Cemetery Board is trying any avenue it can to keep the cemetery afloat, including working with the Munhall Borough Council and the Mifflin Township Historical Society.
During a borough meeting Wednesday night, the board presented its financial problems and asked for help from the local government, said Munhall manager Bob Callen.
Mr. Callen said 75 percent of the council’s budget is fixed and the remaining 25 percent — which is discretionary — has already been budgeted for the year. The borough may try to provide short-term help during the summer with extra maintenance for the grounds, but Mr. Callen said there were no sure answers yet.
The council will come to “some kind of conclusion” at its June 17 meeting, he said.
]“There’s very little, if any, wiggle room from the local government to assist,” Mr. Callen said.
If the cemetery fails to get the money it needs, around $100,000, it will close at the end of June and file for bankruptcy in July, Ms. Morrow said. Despite this, owners of plots in the cemetery could still visit — but, they would be responsible for maintaining the upkeep on the grave, she said.
“They’ll have to figure out how to do that,” she said. “And that really is a burden.”
Carolyn Micher, 73, of Baldwin goes to the cemetery to visit the graves of her husband and family members.
“That’s horrible,” she said. “I hope they can raise some money.”
Daniel Burns, president of the Mifflin Township Historical Society, said the organization, which found out about the cemetery’s problems within the last week, has been scrambling to find a solution.
The historical society will try to secure grants or endowments, or possibly establish a heritage trust specifically for the cemetery, where many founders of the area are buried, he said.
“This isn’t just a small cemetery,” Mr. Burns said. “It’s an important place.”
The board of the historical society will meet with the cemetery board on Monday to further discuss its options.
“We need to help,” Mr. Burns said. “We just don’t know how or if we can, but we certainly can’t stand by and let this happen.”
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