TREMONT — Voters will be asked, at a special town meeting Aug. 6, to approve use of the town’s old landfill for a solar array and authorize selectmen to sell cemetery plots. The meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. in the Harvey Kelley meeting room.
There are four articles on the warrant for the special town meeting. The first three are choosing a moderator, the solar array and the cemeteries. The last article asks for permission to expend revenue collected from private sources, grants and donations.
At the town attorney’s recommendation, the select board decided to conduct a special town meeting seeking approval to enter into a contract with Sundog Solar to set up a solar array on the town’s former landfill.
The landfill was capped in 1996 and the 3-acre space is expected to hold about 500 solar panels. During the first six years of the project the array will be owned and maintained by Sundog Solar and investors through that company, which will sell the power it produces to the town. In the seventh year, the array will become the property of the town and maintenance costs will then be the town’s responsibility.
Selectman Jamie Thurlow jokes that people are dying to get into the town’s cemeteries. The sale of cemetery plots in town-owned cemeteries had been on hold for the last four years and a waiting list has been accruing.
“No cemetery lots were sold when Dana Reed was manager,” said Town Manager Chris Saunders from his office on Wednesday.
A lack of accurate survey information regarding open plots, as well as the lack of a uniform rate structure were reasons for the delay, he said. It didn’t make sense to set a rate structure if selectmen weren’t authorized to sell the lots.
Voters will be asked to approved an amendment to the current cemetery ordinance giving selectmen “authority to sell burial plots and to set a uniform cost schedule for the sale of burial plots” in cemeteries controlled by the town.
Original wording of the ordinance allowed for a uniform cost to be set, but lacked wording that permitted selectmen to sell the plots.
There are 26 cemeteries in the town of Tremont. Eleven of those are owned and maintained by the town. Only five of them have vacancies: Flye Cemetery, Kelley Cemetery, Rich Cemetery, Head of the Harbor and Hillrest Cemetery.
All the inquiries received have been from residents looking to reserve space for when their time comes. One person on the waiting list for Hillrest Cemetery is looking to purchase about a dozen plots for family members.
Tremont is unusual among Mount Desert Island towns in that many of its cemeteries are publicly controlled.
In Southwest Harbor most residents opt to be buried in Mount Height Cemetery, which is owned by the nonprofit Mount Height Cemetery Association. Amy Young is the superintendent of the property. She inherited the role from her father, Peter Dolliver, who inherited it from his father.
“Our responsibility is to maintain the cemetery and sell plots,” said Young about the association that was incorporated in 1905. “We don’t necessarily sell a plot every year.”
In Bar Harbor, too, the majority of the cemeteries are privately owned. One town-owned cemetery on Mount Desert Street has no vacancies and is maintained by the Village Improvement Association.
“The town has nothing to do with the buying or selling of any lots,” said Debbie Dyer, who manages the Ledgelawn Cemetery. Each year, she asks for donations to help with the nearly $25,000 budget to maintain the 10-acre cemetery.
In Tremont, funds from the sale of plots will go into the town’s cemetery trust fund. But only a portion of those funds are readily available for maintenance.
“We can use the interest off this cemetery trust fund to maintain the cemeteries but we can’t spend the principal,” said Saunders. He adds that the less than $10,000 budgeted in the Public Works budget for cemetery care is adequate.
“Our maintenance is limited to mowing them and occasionally doing the fences.”